The winter 2011 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences has been released online. Included in this issue are four all new research articles, an essay review, and eight book reviews. Among topics addressed in the research articles, are the disciplinary myth of Little Albert (left), neo-Freudianism in the United States, ADHD, and the role of measurement in Gustav Fechner’s work. Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Letting go of little Albert: Disciplinary memory, history, and the uses of myth,” by Ben Harris. The abstract reads,
In 2009 American Psychologist published the account of an attempt to identify the infant “Albert B.,” who participated in Watson and Rayner’s study of the conditioning of human fears. Such literal interpretations of the question “Whatever happened to Little Albert?” highlight the importance of historical writing that transcends the narrowly biographical and that avoids the obsessive hunt for “facts.” The author of a 1979 study of how secondary sources have told the story of Little Albert relates his attempts to purge incorrect accounts of that story from college textbooks. He renounces such efforts as misguided and suggests that myths in the history of psychology can be instructive, including the myth that the identity of Little Albert has been discovered.
“The great escape: World War II, neo-Freudianism, and the origins of U.S. psychocultural analysis,” by Edward J. K. Gitre. The abstract reads, Continue reading New Issue: JHBS
The just released December 2010 special issue of the British Psychological Society‘s general interest publication, The Psychologist, is dedicated to 150 years of experimental psychology, as this year marks the 150th anniversary of Gustav Fechner’s Psychophysics (see AHP‘s previous post on this anniversary here). Included in this issue are a number of short pieces by prominent scholars in the history of psychology, as well an interview with AHP‘s own Christopher Green. Authors, titles, and abstracts follow below.
“The experimental psychologist’s fallacy.” Geoff Bunn introduces a special issue marking the 150th Anniversary of Gustav Fechner’s Elements of Psychophysics. The abstract reads:
Considered by some psychologists to be the ‘founding father’ of experimental psychology, Gustav Fechner (1801–1887) was, to some extent, an uncompromisingly hardnosed materialist. Yet there was also a more conciliatory and spiritual side to his thinking. In 1835, for example, in his Little Book on Life After Death, Fechner argued that consciousness can be sustained by different ontological systems. The work of many of the great psychologists has subsequently incorporated similarly antagonistic dualisms. But these ineradicable tensions are ultimately a function not of the idiosyncrasies of individual biography but of the highly ambiguous nature of psychological knowledge itself. Continue reading History of Psychology in The Psychologist
October 22nd is Fechner Day, marking the anniversary of Gustav Theodor Fechner’s formulation of psychophysics on the morning of October 22nd, 1860. To celebrate the 150th anniversary of psychophysics, AHP brings you a sneak peak into the forthcoming November issue of History of Psychology (HoP), via an interview with Fechner authority David Robinson (left).
AHP: The forthcoming November issue of History of Psychology, features a special section celebrating the 150th anniversary of the publication of Gustav Theodor Fechner’s (1801-1887) Elemente der Psychophysik or Elements of Psychophysics. As guest co-editor of this section, can you briefly summarize the importance of this work in the history of psychology?
DR: Fechner was a prominent German physicist, when eye injury (and apparently mental collapse) forced him to retire from experimental physics at Leipzig University. As he slowly recovered from illness, he indulged his naturphilosophisch, pantheistic inclinations and sought to establish firm quantitative relationships between stimuli and sensation (or perhaps better, perception), indeed between matter and spirit. This was the 1850s, and several other physicists and sensory physiologists were making inroads in empirical and quantitative studies of perception. Fechner’s long two-volume book, Elemente, did not please them all, but it is fair to say that he successfully coined the term, psychophysics, and gave those studies and experimental psychology a lot of early momentum. Indeed Fechner was still there in Leipzig, when Wilhelm Wundt founded the Institute of Experimental Psychology in 1879. Continue reading Fechner Day Interview with David Robinson
According to legend, on this date in 1850, Gustav Theodor Fechner arose from his sleep armed with wholly new method to attack the problem studying the mind. Rather than relying on introspective reports of what was going on in people’s minds, scientists could, instead, vary the intensity of some external physical stimulus and ask the “participant” (as we now call them) whether s/he could detect any difference perceptually. For instance: “Does this weight seem heavier than that one?” “Does this light seem brighter or greener than that one?” “Does sound seem louder or higher than that one?” Continue reading Fechner Day!
As part of the University of Leipzig’s 600th anniversary celebrations, Julika Habekost has translated the departmental history from the original German into English. The result provides an insider’s perspective on the standard institutional history from one of Psychology’s earliest hubs.
Experimental research on the overlapping disciplines of psychology and physiology commenced because of Ernst Heinrich Weber (1795-1878), at the University of Leipzig. Since Weber’s studies laid the foundation for the evolution of experimental psychology, Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) would refer to Weber as the “Founding Father of Psychology.” Gustav Theodor Fechner (1801-1887), who had been a member of the Department of Philosophy since 1823, lectured on moral and natural philosophy starting in 1846, on psychophysics in 1857 and on experimental aesthetics in 1864. He had seen his concept of psychophysiological law confirmed in Weber’s discovery that differential change in perception was constant. Fechner coined the term Weber-Fechner law and acknowledged thereby Weber’s contribution to the foundation of psychophysics.
The middle section then focusses on Wundt and his students. The final section outlines the history of the department after Wundt’s departure in 1917.
Since I do not read German, it would be nice to hear from a reader who can compare the new translation with the original. Specifically, is there anything missing in the English version? (Are there any errors?)