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.
The May issue of History of Psychology is now online. Articles in this issue address the (lack of) health psychology in post-apartheid South Africa , the concept of “active touch” before the work of James Gibson, the Lvov-Warsaw School of historical psychology, and the teaching of the history of psychology in Spain. Two further articles contribute to the digital history of psychology: John Benjamin offers a Zipfian analysis of the anglophone vocabulary of psychology, while Michael Pettit argues for caution in using the Google Books Ngram Viewer as a means of assessing cultural change over time. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Psychology and health after apartheid: Or, Why there is no health psychology in South Africa,” by Jeffery Yen. The abstract reads,
As part of a growing literature on the histories of psychology in the Global South, this article outlines some historical developments in South African psychologists’ engagement with the problem of “health.” Alongside movements to formalize and professionalize a U.S.-style “health psychology” in the 1990s, there arose a parallel, eclectic, and more or less critical psychology that contested the meaning and determinants of health, transgressed disciplinary boundaries, and opposed the responsibilization of illness implicit in much health psychological theorizing and neoliberal discourse. This disciplinary bifurcation characterized South African work well into the postapartheid era, but ideological distinctions have receded in recent years under a new regime of knowledge production in thrall to the demands of the global market. The article outlines some of the historical-political roots of key trends in psychologists’ work on health in South Africa, examining the conditions that have impinged on its directions and priorities. It raises questions about the future trajectories of psychological research on health after 20 years of democracy, and argues that there currently is no “health psychology” in South Africa, and that the discipline is the better for it.
The first issue of the 18th volume of History of Psychology is now available (here). Contents include a digital networking of early articles in the journal Psychological Review, an account of Alfred Binet’s subject Jacques Inaudi, the relation between experimental psychology and educational training in early 20th century Brazil, and more. Article titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“The ‘textbook Gibson’: The assimilation of dissidence,” by Alan Costall and Paul Morris. The abstract reads:
We examine how the textbooks have dealt with one of psychology’s most eminent dissidents, James Gibson (1904–1979). Our review of more than a hundred textbooks, dating from the 1950s to the present, reveals fundamental and systematic misrepresentations of Gibson. Although Gibson continues to figure in most of the textbooks, his work is routinely assimilated to theoretical positions he emphatically rejected: cue theory, stimulus-response psychology, and nativism. As Gibson’s one-time colleague, Ulric Neisser, pointed out, psychologists are especially prone to trying to understand new proposals “by mapping it on to some existing scheme,” and warned that when “an idea is really new, that strategy fails” (Neisser, 1990, p. 749). The “Textbook Gibson” is an example of such a failure, and perhaps also of the more general importance of assimilation—“shadow history”—within the actual history of psychology.