Between WWII and the 1970s, prominent researchers from various fields established and defended a view that emotions are integral to the self, and that a mother’s love determines an individual’s emotional development. In Marga Vicedo, The Nature and Nurture of Love: From Imprinting to Attachment in Cold War America (University of Chicago Press, 2013), Marga Vicedo explores the emergence of the science of children’s emotional needs in the twentieth century. Masterfully bringing together approaches from the history and philosophy of the biological sciences, Vicedo’s book focuses on British psychoanalyst and psychiatrist John Bowlby (1907-1990), whose ethological work became one of the most influential and controversial psychological theories of the 20th century. Vicedo uses the story of Bowlby’s science to explore a broader modern history of work on animal and human behavior that includes Konrad Lorenz, Anna Freud, Benjamin Spock, and Niko Tinbergen, among others. Along the way, The Nature & Nurture of Love chronicles the emergence of a kind of anthropomorphic material culture of the human sciences, inhabiting its story with a fascinating cast of robots, dolls, geese, monkeys, and stuffed animals, as well as humans. It is a fascinating and gripping trans-disciplinary story and an absolute pleasure to read.
Although “Wire Mothers” highlights several aspects of Harlow’s career and alludes to the work of Pavlov, Watson, and Skinner, the bulk of the story focuses on Harlow’s best known work with infant rhesus monkeys beginning in the late 1950s. These studies included questions related to the fear responses of these animals (see some original footage), the effects of contact comfort (see The Nature of Love), and the effects of social isolation (see Total Isolation in Monkeys). The authors also seem to capture a fair characterization of Harlow himself.
Overall, the project is well done – ex. the wire and cloth “mothers” will be easily recognizable to Historians of Psychology – and even concludes with a two page list of recommended primary and secondary source readings. This could be a great way to introduce our students to the topic – or perhaps just a fun read this summer when you want to goof off but still feel productive.
Digging into the history of psychological science, the Observer has retrieved classic interviews with prominent psychological scientists for an ongoing series Psychology (Yesterday and) Today. Each interview is introduced by a contemporary psychological scientist, and the full text of the interview is available on the Observer website. We invite you to reflect on the words of these legendary scientists, and decide whether their voices still resonate with the science of today.
As indicated in the above description, each look back at an interview with a given psychologist is accompanied by a downloadable version of the original Psychology Today interview.
The November issue of History of Psychology has just been released online. Included in the issue are three all new research articles, as well as a piece on teaching and a news and notes feature. The latter brings to our attention some previously unknown correspondence between Harry Harlow and Nadya Nikolaevna Ladygina-Kohts, author of The Chimpanzee Child and the Human Child. In his piece on teaching Dana Dunn, proposes emphasizing Kurt Lewin as the link between social psychology and rehabilitation psychology. Research article in this issue of History of Psychology, look at Princeton president James McCosh’s (right) role as part of the tradition of so-called “old psychology,” the use of a rhetoric of uncertainty in early American psychology, and the emergence of Italian social psychology. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Last of the Mohicans” James McCosh and psychology ‘old’ and ‘new’,” by Elissa N. Rodkey. The abstract reads,
This paper addresses the history of a rhetorical tradition in psychology that made a distinct division between old and new psychology and denigrated the old. The views of James McCosh, a transitional old psychologist and Princeton’s president from 1868 to 1888, are analyzed to evaluate the stereotypical view of old psychology as antiscience and dogmatic. The evidence of James McCosh’s writings and his actions while president of Princeton suggest the need for a more nuanced interpretation of the relationship between the old and the new. While McCosh did not share the new psychologists’ valuation of experimental psychology, this was because of a disagreement over the correct methods of science, not a rejection of science itself. Therefore, the negative view of old psychology is better understood as a rhetorical strategy on the part of new psychologists who had professional reasons to distance themselves from their old psychology heritage.