AHP readers will be interested in a forthcoming article in History of Science, now available online, on the intersection of Buddhism and psychology in Japan.
“Techniques for nothingness: Debate over the comparability of hypnosis and Zen in early-twentieth-century Japan,” by Yu-chuan Wu. Abstract:
This paper explores a debate that took place in Japan in the early twentieth century over the comparability of hypnosis and Zen. The debate was among the first exchanges between psychology and Buddhism in Japan, and it cast doubt on previous assumptions that a clear boundary existed between the two fields. In the debate, we find that contemporaries readily incorporated ideas from psychology and Buddhism to reconstruct the experiences and concepts of hypnosis and Buddhist nothingness. The resulting new theories and techniques of nothingness were fruits of a fairly fluid boundary between the two fields. The debate, moreover, reveals that psychology tried to address the challenges and possibilities posed by religious introspective meditation and intuitive experiences in a positive way. In the end, however, psychology no longer regarded them as viable experimental or psychotherapeutic tools but merely as particular subjective experiences to be investigated and explained.
“The Synthetic Experiment: E. B. Titchener’s Cornell Psychological Laboratory and the Test of Introspective Analysis,” by Rand B. Evans. The abstract reads,
Beginning in 1900, a major thread of research was added to E. B. Titchener’s Cornell laboratory: the synthetic experiment. Titchener and his graduate students used introspective analysis to reduce a perception, a complex experience, into its simple sensory constituents. To test the validity of that analysis, stimulus patterns were selected to reproduce the patterns of sensations found in the introspective analyses. If the original perception can be reconstructed in this way, then the analysis was considered validated. This article reviews development of the synthetic method in E. B. Titchener’s laboratory at Cornell University and examines its impact on psychological research.
“The Method of Negative Instruction: Herbert S. Langfeld’s and Ludwig R. Geissler’s 1910–1913 Insightful Studies,” by Robert W. Proctor and Aiping Xiong. The abstract reads,
Herbert S. Langfeld and Ludwig R. Geissler published insightful articles during the period of 1910–1913 using what they called the Method of Negative Instruction, which anticipated much current research on action control and the role of instructions. We review their studies and relate the findings to contemporary research and views concerning task-irrelevant congruency effects and deception, concluding that their work has not received the credit it warrants. We also call for contemporary researchers to revisit prior studies, especially ones conducted before the cognitive revolution in psychology, to enrich their knowledge of the field and improve the quality of their research.
The February 2016 issue of Theory & Psychology includes an article that may be of especial interest to AHP readers. Saulo de Freitas Araujo and Rayssa Maluf de Souza explore William James’ views on introspection as a method in their article ““… to rely on first and foremost and always”: Revisiting the role of introspection in William James’s early psychological work.” The abstract reads,
In order to legitimate itself as a science, psychology has faced the ongoing problem of establishing its proper method of investigation. In this context, debates on introspection have emerged that have remained intense since the 18th century. However, contemporary debates and historical investigations on this topic have not done justice to the richness and diversity of positions, leading to oversimplifications and hasty generalizations, as if the terms “introspection” and “introspectionism” referred to one and same thing. The central goal of this article is to offer an analysis of William James’s position on the introspective method within the intellectual context of his time, covering the period from his early writings until the publication, in 1890, of The Principles of Psychology. Our results indicate that James used two different types of introspection. We conclude by discussing divergences in the secondary literature and the implications of our study for historical and theoretical debates in psychology.
Occasional AHP contributor, and York University History and Theory of Psychology doctoral candidate Jennifer Bazar, has just released three short videos on the history of psychology on YouTube. The videos, each approximately 5 minutes long, explore the psychology exhibit at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair (above), the history of the psychology laboratory at Wellesley College (below), and introspection (bottom), respectively. While great on their own, the videos are also fantastic resources for those teaching the history of psychology!