Tag Archives: Behaviorism

New JHBS: Ambiverts, Victimization Surveys, Radical Behaviorism in Brazil, and More

Fred Keller

The Autumn 2017 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now available. Articles in this issue explore the history of the ambivert, the emergence of victimization surveys, the influence of Fred Keller’s radical behaviorism in Brazil, and ideas about mental evolution and unconscious memory in Victorian Britain. Full details follow below.

“The ambivert: A failed attempt at a normal personality,” by Ian J. Davidson. Abstract:

Recently, attention has been drawn toward an overlooked and nearly forgotten personality type: the ambivert. This paper presents a genealogy of the ambivert, locating the various contexts it traversed in order to highlight the ways in which these places and times have interacted and changed—ultimately elucidating our current situation. Proposed by Edmund S. Conklin in 1923, the ambivert only was meant for normal persons in between the introvert and extravert extremes. Although the ambivert could have been taken up by early personality psychologists who were transitioning from the study of the abnormal to the normal, it largely failed to gain traction. Whether among psychoanalysts, psychiatrists, or applied and personality psychologists, the ambivert was personality non grata. It was only within the context of Eysenck’s integrative view of types and traits that the ambivert marginally persisted up to the present day and is now the focus of sales management and popular psychology.

“The genesis of victimization surveys and of the realist-constructionist divide,” by Matthieu de Castelbajac. Abstract: Continue reading New JHBS: Ambiverts, Victimization Surveys, Radical Behaviorism in Brazil, and More

Leo Postman and George Miller in the New AJP

L-R: Harry F. Harlow, Judson S. Brown, and Leo J. Postman. Copyright: Department of Psychology, UNL.

The Fall 2017 issue of the American Journal of Psychology features two articles marking the journal’s 130th anniversary. The first explores the work of experimentalist Leo Postman and the second, the contributions of George Miller to the American Journal of PsychologyFull details below.

“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.

New Book: Purpose and Cognition: Edward Tolman and the Transformation of American Psychology

Soon-to-come from Cambridge University Press is a new volume on psychologist Edward Tolman and his influence on American Psychology. Purpose and Cognition: Edward Tolman and the Transformation of American Psychology, is written by psychologist David W. Carroll of the University of Wisconsin, Superior. The book is described on the publisher’s website, as discussing

the development of Edward Tolman’s purposive behaviourism from the 1920s to the 1950s, highlighting the tension between his references to cognitive processes and the dominant behaviourist trends. It shows how Tolman incorporated concepts from European scholars, including Egon Brunswik and the Gestalt psychologists, to justify a more purposive form of behaviourism and how the theory evolved in response to the criticisms of his contemporaries. The manuscript also discusses Tolman’s political activities, culminating in his role in the California loyalty oath controversy in the 1950s. Tolman was involved in a number of progressive causes during his lifetime, activities that drew the attention of both state legislators in California and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It treats Tolman’s theoretical and political activities as emanating from the same source, a desire to understand the learning process in a scientific manner and to apply these concepts to improve the human condition.


FHHS Sponsored Session: “Human Science Fictionalized: A Novel, a Visual Narrative and an Indie Film”

This November’s History of Science Society (HSS) meeting features a session sponsored by HSS’s special interest group the Forum for History of Human Science (FHHS). The HSS meeting runs November 3rd through 6th in Atlanta, Georgia. The session “Human Science Fictionalized: A Novel, a Visual Narrative and an Indie Film,” organized by Ben Harris (right), will take place on the morning of Sunday November 6th. Full details follow below.

Sunday Nov. 6, 9-11 am
Session 87. Human Science Fictionalized: A Novel, a Visual Narrative and an Indie Film
Chair(s): John Carson, University of Michigan
Commentator(s): Nadine Weidman, Harvard University
Organizer(s): Ben Harris, University of New Hampshire

A Novelist’s Perspective, Andromeda Romano-Lax, Independent Scholar
An Artist’s Perspective, Matteo Farinella, Independent Scholar and Columbia University
Putting Stanley Milgram on Film, Gina Perry, University of Melbourne


In studies of science popularization the focus is usually on non-fiction. But what about fictionalized portraits of science? This session looks at three attempts to bring the human and neuro- sciences to the public through fiction. Among the questions explored are: how is the fact/fiction boundary negotiated? how do a “fact writer” and a “fiction writer” think about popularization differently? What are the different relationships that they have to their sources, or that they envision with their audiences? Andromeda Romano-Lax is a successful novelist whose most recent work, Behave (2016), dramatizes the life and career of Rosalie Rayner, wife and former student of behaviorist John Watson. Matteo Farinella is an illustrator and artist with a doctorate in neuroscience. His visual narrative, Neurocomic (2013, co-authored with Hana Roz), portrays the history of neuroscience through a young man’s a voyage of discovery in a land of giant neurons and encounters with famous scientists. Gina Perry is an Australian journalist who used her investigative and narrative skills to write a Behind the Shock Machine (2013), a history of Stanley Milgram’s obedience studies. Now a doctoral student in psychology, she will review Experimenter, Michael Almereyda’s 2016 film about Milgram and his work. Our commentator is Nadine Weidman, a historian of science at Harvard University known for her work on public controversy and popularization in the twentieth century human sciences. Our Chair is John Carson, a historian at the University of Michigan and Director of Undergraduate Studies for its Program in Science, Technology, and Society.

Come back tomorrow for a roundup of all the history of human science related programming at HSS!