Tag Archives: Center for the History of Psychology

Slate: Phineas Gage, Neuroscience’s Most Famous Patient

Slate Magazine has just published a piece on infamous brain damage survivor Phineas Gage. To tell the story of Gage and his continuing importance in the history of psychology the article draws heavily on the work of Malcolm Macmillan. As the Slate article recounts,

Most of us first encountered Gage in a neuroscience or psychology course, and the lesson of his story was both straightforward and stark: The frontal lobes house our highest faculties; they’re the essence of our humanity, the physical incarnation of our highest cognitive powers. So when Gage’s frontal lobes got pulped, he transformed from a clean-cut, virtuous foreman into a dirty, scary, sociopathic drifter. Simple as that. This story has had a huge influence on the scientific and popular understanding of the brain. Most uncomfortably, it implies that whenever people suffer grave damage to the frontal lobes—as soldiers might, or victims of strokes or Alzheimer’s disease—something essentially human can vanish.

Recent historical work, however, suggests that much of the canonical Gage story is hogwash, a mélange of scientific prejudice, artistic license, and outright fabrication. In truth each generation seems to remake Gage in its own image, and we know very few hard facts about his post-accident life and behavior. Some scientists now even argue that, far from turning toward the dark side, Gage recovered after his accident and resumed something like a normal life—a possibility that, if true, could transform our understanding of the brain’s ability to heal itself.

The full article can be read online here and Macmillan’s website on Gage can now be found hosted on the Center for the History of Psychology site.

Milgram’s Obedience to Authority Experiment on Mysteries at the Museum

Stanley Milgram’s infamous obedience to authority experiments have made their way to the Travel Channel. The study appears – in highly dramatized form – in the February 6th episode of Mysteries at the Museum.  Helping describe the study is Cathy Faye, Assistant Director of the Center for the History of Psychology in Akron, Ohio. The simulated shock generator from Milgram’s experiment now resides in the Center’s Museum.

New Center for the History of Psychology Online Exhibit: The IQ Zoo

The Center for the History of Psychology (CHP) has just released its first online exhibit. Dedicated to the IQ Zoo, the exhibit features rare video and photographs, as well as details of the Zoo’s exhibit plans, animals, and training methods.  As described on the exhibit site,

The IQ Zoo was an animal training facility and tourist attraction in Hot Springs, Arkansas developed by Keller and Marian Breland in 1955. The Brelands, both graduate students of psychologist B. F. Skinner, used principles of behaviorism to train chickens, rabbits, pigs, raccoons, groundhogs, deer, goats, and many other animals to perform simple acts based on the animals’ instinctual behaviors. The acts, which included traveling animal shows, were as diverse as the animals and ranged from “The Kissing Bunny” where a rabbit “kissed” his plastic girlfriend to “Casey at the Bat” where a chicken played a game of baseball on a miniature scale.

The IQ Zoo exhibit features items and information taken from the Animal Behavior Enterprises collection housed at the CHP. The full exhibit can be explored online here.

In Memoriam, John Popplestone (1928-2013)

We here at AHP are saddened by the news of the passing of John Popplestone on September 15, 2013. Popplestone, along with his wife Marion McPherson White, founded the Archives of the History of Psychology in Akron, Ohio in 1965. He served as its original director until retiring in 1999. Popplestone has left behind one of the most pre-eminent collections dedicated to the history of psychology for many generations to come.

In his honour, the Center for the History of Psychology (which today encompasses the Archives), has recently posted a series of photographs from their founder’s past and we invite you to visit their site.

History of Psychology and Science Communication

This is a special joint post, authored by Jacy Young, Filipe Degani and Rodrigo Miranda, and published simultaneously on both AHP and RIPeHP (Blog da Rede Iberoamericana de Pesquisadores em História da Psicologia).

It is undeniable that scientific communication has been heavily influenced by new information technologies (IT). A continuing phenomenon the world over is the success of ”science blogs”, which have thrived in the struggle for space within traditional science journalism.

Many examples science blogs and bloggers could be found at the 8th World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ) held in Helsinki (Finland) last June, from the 24th to 28th. Approximately 800 participants from 80 countries attended the Conference and discussed the progress achieved by science blogs in the last several years. In the blog world, some standouts include figures like Ed Yong, who runs the blog Not Exactly Rocket Science, and Carl Zimmer, who is responsible for the The LoomPaul Krugman, who won the Nobel prize (Economics), regularly explores economic science in his blog The Conscience of a Liberal. These authors are also active on Twitter and Facebook, another set of ITs that are becoming popular tools of scientific communication.

In the History of Psychology (HoP) we can observe this same kind of effort at online science communication. For instance, the blog Advances in the History of Psychology (AHP) has been running since 2007. AHP began as an experiment in communicating news, notes, and resources relevant to the history of psychology to as broad an audience as possible. In recent years this mandate has seen AHP expand onto Facebook and Twitter.

Another example of psychology-specific history of science blogging is the largely Portuguese/Spanish language Rede Iberoamericana de Pesquisadores em História da Psicologia/Iberoamerican Network of Researchers on History of Psychology (RIPeHP) blog. The blog has been running since 2011 and it is associated with the RIPeHP, a group of  HoP researchers from different countries of Iberoamerica. RIPeHP is also active on Facebook and it is hoping to be onto Twitter soon.

Both blogs provide readers with information on many aspects on HoP, such as: new issues from scientific journals; call for papers; interviews; conferences; etc. This helps researchers from different parts of the world get new information about the field and can also contribute to bringing researchers together. These blogs also provide valuable resources for teachers of HoP, while also (hopefully) raising the profile of the field within the larger psychology and history of science communities.

There are other excellent related blogs, whose content is both more focused and more broad than just HoP. For instance, the Center for the History of Psychology (CHP) blog, highlights primary sources and interesting information about the archival collections of the CHP. They are also online on Facebook and Twitter. The blog H-madness focuses on the related field of the history of psychiatry, while the blog MindHacks explores developments in psychology more broadly and regularly features HoP content among its postings.

Other efforts at disseminating HoP have by passed blogs altogether, employing Facebook and Twitter as their primary means of communication. These include the Society for the History of Psychology (Division 26 of the American Psychological Association), which communicates primarily through its Facebook page, and Psychology’s Feminist Voices, a multi-media internet archive, which has both a Facebook and Twitter presence.

Maybe, in the next couples of years, we will see some psychology bloggers in conferences like the WCSJ, or scientific communication working groups at HoP meetings. In the meantime, keep reading!