The APA’s Monitor on Psychology features a compelling article in their November issue by Rebecca A. Clay on the work currently being done by psychologists in South Africa to become accountable for the discipline’s violent history there, and to change the field in a responsible and functional way moving forward, focusing on revision of assessment practices, and on professional and student training.
Highlights include: debates about the ‘Africanization’ of theory and methods; the inclusion of critical psychology perspectives in the classroom, research, clinic, and psychologists’ worldviews; the current realities of discrimination in the academy experienced by students and faculty; and the efforts made to ensure these processes of change do not become ‘top-down’ and end up reiterating colonial conceptualizations rather than promoting self-determination on the part of psychologists and their clients in collaborative ways.
It’s an excellent summary of a complex and sensitive situation; read the article here.
The February 2017 issue of History of Psychology is now online. Articles in this issue explore the work of O. Hobart Mowrer, Howard W. Odum, and Timothée Puel, respectively, Karl Menninger’s The Crime of Punishment, and the changing relationship between psychology and philosophy through a digital analysis of journal content. In the news and notes section Chetan Sinha discusses the indigenization of psychology in India. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Preserving guilt in the “age of psychology”: The curious career of O. Hobart Mowrer,” by Corbin Page. The abstract reads,
O. Hobart Mowrer had one of the most productive and curious careers of any psychologist in the 20th century, despite struggling with severe mental illness and anxiety about his sexuality. Early in his career, he was one of the country’s leading experimental psychologists. During the mid-1940s, he became interested in religion and argued that anxiety was caused by repressed guilt that came from real wrongdoing. By the late 1950s, he had abandoned mainstream psychology, arguing that religion had been corrupted by its embrace of psychology and psychiatry. He claimed that sin was responsible for nearly all psychological problems and that ethical living and confession of wrongdoing could prevent mental illness. During his religious period, Mowrer received an astonishing amount of fawning press attention and was embraced by a public desirous of a path to mental health that did not require jettisoning traditional conceptions of sin, guilt, and human nature. This article examines Mowrer’s life and career and situates him among other mid-century skeptics of psychology and psychiatry. Other historians have argued that by the 1950s, the conflict between religion and psychiatry/psychology in the United States had largely abated, with both sides adapting to each other. Mowrer’s life and the reception of his work demonstrate that this narrative is overly simplistic; widespread conservative and religious distrust of psychology persisted even into the 1960s.
“Psychological keys in the study of African American religious folk songs in the early work of Howard W. Odum (1884–1954),” by Marcos José Bernal-Marcos, Jorge Castro-Tejerina, and José Carlos Loredo-Narciandi. The abstract reads, Continue reading New HoP: The Careers of Mowrer, Odum, & Puel, Digital History, & More
PsychCentral, one of the larger psych-blogging hubs, has posted a review by Margarita Tartakovsky of Richard Noll‘s (2011) American Madness: The Rise and Fall of Dementia Praecox.
In her reading of it, the book can be situated at the boundary between the history of psychiatry, the history of psychology, and the public understanding of science:
The public was introduced to dementia praecox by a 1907 piece in the New York Times that recounted the testimony in the murder trial of architect Stanford White. The superintendent of an asylum in Binghamton, N.Y. testified that the murderer, Harry Kendall Thaw, might’ve been suffering with dementia praecox.
In the late 1920s to the 1930s, dementia praecox started making its exit, replaced by Eugen Bleuler’s “schizophrenia.” At first, Noll says, these terms were used interchangeably in both clinical practice and research (which, naturally, made things very confusing). But these disorders had distinct differences.
Although he didn’t use the word, Noll—in a recent interview posted at the blog run by Harvard University Press—explained the overlap as being a consequence of schizophrenia’s “indigenization” into the American context. This then wrought changes in meaning:
By 1927 schizophrenia became the preferred term for inexplicable madness, but the Americans reframed Bleuler’s disease concept as a primarily functional or psychogenic condition that was caused by mothers or maladjustments to social reality. When Bleuler visited the United States in 1929 he was horrified to see what the Americans were calling schizophrenia. He insisted it was a physical disease with a chronic course characterized by exacerbations and remissions of hallucinations, delusions and bizarre behaviors.
This duality, of madness caught between mental condition and physical disease, also provides a connection from the mind back to medicine. Continue reading Review of Noll’s (2011) American Madness