Tag Archives: digital history

History of Psychology: Special Section on Digital History of Psychology, Plus Early Vygotsky

The November 2018 issue of History of Psychology is now online. The issue includes a special section on the digital history of psychology. Full details below.

Digital methods can help you . . . If you’re careful, critical, and not historiographically naïve,” by Burman, Jeremy Trevelyan. Abstract:

This special section on the digital history of psychology includes target articles by Ivan Flis and Nees Jan van Eck and Jeremy Trevelyan Burman, with comments by Melinda Baldwin, Ted Porter, and Chris Green. In his introduction to the section, Burman explains his original motivation in turning to tools borrowed from the digital humanities: helping graduate students to identify dissertation topics more easily, and thereby reduce completion times for the doctorate, while at the same time doing “good history.” Since then, a new field—digital history of psychology—has blossomed. John Burnham, especially, is recognized here as an important interlocutor.

“Through the looking-glass: PsycINFO as an historical archive of trends in psychology,” by Burman, Jeremy Trevelyan. Abstract:

Those interested in tracking trends in the history of psychology cannot simply trust the numbers produced by inputting terms into search engines like PsycINFO and then constraining by date. This essay is therefore a critical engagement with that longstanding interest to show what it is possible to do, over what period, and why. It concludes that certain projects simply cannot be undertaken without further investment by the American Psychological Association. This is because forgotten changes in the assumptions informing the database make its index terms untrustworthy for use in trend-tracking before 1967. But they can indeed be used, with care, to track more recent trends. The result is then a Distant Reading of psychology, with Digital History presented as enabling a kind of Science Studies that psychologists will find appealing. The present state of the discipline can thus be caricatured as the contemporary scientific study of depressed rats and the drugs used to treat them (as well as of human brains, mice, and myriad other topics). To extend the investigation back further in time, however, the 1967 boundary is also investigated. The author then delves more deeply into the prehistory of the database’s creation, and shows in a précis of a further project that the origins of PsycINFO can be traced to interests related to American national security during the Cold War. In short: PsycINFO cannot be treated as a simple bibliographic description of the discipline. It is embedded in its history, and reflects it.

“Framing psychology as a discipline (1950–1999): A large-scale term co-occurrence analysis of scientific literature in psychology,” by Flis, Ivan; van Eck, Nees Jan. Abstract: Continue reading History of Psychology: Special Section on Digital History of Psychology, Plus Early Vygotsky

What Is History of Psychology? Network Analysis of Journal Citation Reports, 2009-2015

AHP readers may be interested in a forthcoming piece by Jeremy Trevelyan Burman in Sage Open, “What Is History of Psychology? Network Analysis of Journal Citation Reports, 2009-2015“. Abstract:

This essay considers the History of Psychology—its interests and boundaries—using the data behind the Journal Impact Factor system. Advice is provided regarding what journals to follow, which broad frames to consider in presenting research findings, and where to publish the resulting studies to reach different audiences. The essay itself has also been written for those with only passing familiarity with its methods. It is therefore not necessary to be an expert in network analysis to engage in “virtual witnessing” while considering methods or results: Everything is clearly explained and carefully illustrated. The further consequence is that those who are new to the History of Psychology as a specialty, distinct from its subject matter, are introduced to the myriad historical perspectives within and related to psychology from the broadest possible perspective. A supplemental set of exemplary readings is also provided, in addition to cited references, drawing from identified sources from beyond the primary journals.

Forthcoming in HoP: Disciplinary Digital History, Temperament Tests, & Little Albert

A number of articles forthcoming in History of Psychology are now available online. These articles explore the disciplinary structure of psychology using digital history methods, the use of the Humm-Wadsworth Temperament Scale in American industry during the interwar years, and the role of bias and logical errors in debates of the identity of Little Albert. Full titles, authors, and abstracts below.

“THROUGH THE LOOKING-GLASS PsycINFO as an Historical Archive of Trends in Psychology,” by Burman, Jeremy Trevelyan.  Abstract

Those interested in tracking trends in the history of psychology cannot simply trust the numbers produced by inputting terms into search engines like PsycINFO and then constraining by date. This essay is therefore a critical engagement with that longstanding interest to show what it is possible to do, over what period, and why. It concludes that certain projects simply cannot be undertaken without further investment by the American Psychological Association. This is because forgotten changes in the assumptions informing the database make its index terms untrustworthy for use in trend-tracking before 1967. But they can indeed be used, with care, to track more recent trends. The result is then a Distant Reading of psychology, with Digital History presented as enabling a kind of Science Studies that psychologists will find appealing. The present state of the discipline can thus be caricatured as the contemporary scientific study of depressed rats and the drugs used to treat them (as well as of human brains, mice, and myriad other topics). To extend the investigation back further in time, however, the 1967 boundary is also investigated. The author then delves more deeply into the prehistory of the database’s creation, and shows in a précis of a further project that the origins of PsycINFO can be traced to interests related to American national security during the Cold War. In short: PsycINFO cannot be treated as a simple bibliographic description of the discipline. It is embedded in its history, and reflects it.

“Temperamental Workers: Psychology, Business, and the Humm-Wadsworth Temperament Scale in Interwar America,” by Lussier, Kira. Abstract

This article traces the history of a popular interwar psychological test, the Humm-Wadsworth Temperament Scale (HWTS), from its development in the early 1930s to its adoption by corporate personnel departments. In popular articles, trade magazines, and academic journals, industrial psychologist Doncaster Humm and personnel manager Guy Wadsworth trumpeted their scale as a scientific measure of temperament that could ensure efficient hiring practices and harmonious labor relations by screening out “problem employees” and screening for temperamentally “normal” workers. This article demonstrates how concerns about the epistemological and scientific credibility of the HWTS were intimately entangled with concerns about its value to business at every step in the test’s development. The HWTS sought to measure the emotional and social dimensions of an individual’s personality so as to assess their suitability for work. The practice of temperament testing conjured a vision of the subject whose emotional and social disposition was foundational to their own capacity to find employment, and whose capacity to appropriately express, but regulate, their emotions was foundational to corporate order. The history of the HWTS offers an instructive case of how psychological tests embed social hierarchies, political claims, and economic ideals within their very theoretical and methodological foundations. Although the HWTS itself may have faded from use, the test directly inspired creators of subsequent popular personality tests, such as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

“Framing Psychology as a Discipline (1950–1999): A Large-Scale Term Co-Occurrence Analysis of Scientific Literature in Psychology,” by Flis, Ivan; van Eck, Nees Jan. Abstract: Continue reading Forthcoming in HoP: Disciplinary Digital History, Temperament Tests, & Little Albert

AJP Articles: S. S. Stevens’ Scaling Work, Ecological Psychology, & Digital History

S. S. Stevens in the Psychoacoustics Lab at Harvard University

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.

“Gibson and Crooks (1938): Vision and Validation,” by Patricia R. Delucia and Keith S. Jones. Abstract: Continue reading AJP Articles: S. S. Stevens’ Scaling Work, Ecological Psychology, & Digital History

New Article: Publish & Perish: Psychology’s Most Prolific Authors Are Not Always the Ones We Remember

Now in print in the Spring 2017 issue of the American Journal of Psychology is the most recent digital history piece by Christopher Green (left): “Publish and Perish: Psychology’s Most Prolific Authors Are Not Always the Ones We Remember.” The abstract reads,

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.