Tag Archives: JHBS

JHBS Early View: “Blots and All” a History of the Rorschach in Britain

Now available for Early View from the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is “Blots and All: A History of the Rorschach Ink Blot Test in Britain.” Written by Katherine Hubbard and Peter Hegarty, the article’s abstract reads,

Despite the easily recognizable nature of the Rorschach ink blot test very little is known about the history of the test in Britain. We attend to the oft-ignored history of the Rorschach test in Britain and compare it to its history in the US. Prior to the Second World War, Rorschach testing in Britain had attracted advocates and critiques. Afterward, the British Rorschach Forum, a network with a high proportion of women, developed around the Tavistock Institute in London and The Rorschach Newsletter. In 1968, the International Rorschach Congress was held in London but soon after the group became less exclusive, and fell into decline. A comparative account of the Rorschach in Britain demonstrates how different national institutions invested in the ‘projective hypothesis’ according to the influence of psychoanalysis, the adoption of a nationalized health system, and the social positioning of ‘others’ throughout the twentieth century. In comparing and contrasting the history of the Rorschach in Britain and the US, we decentralize and particularize the history of North American Psychology.

JHBS early view: Neurasthenia and Patient-Psychiatrist Interactions in Pre-war America

JHBSThe Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences has published an article online-first by Susan Lamb. It’s titled ‘My resisting getting well: Neurasthenia and subconscious conflict in patient-psychiatrist interactions in prewar America.’

The abstract reads as follows:

This study examines experiences of individual patients and psychiatrists in the Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic at Johns Hopkins between 1913 and 1917. The dynamics of these patient-psychiatrist interactions elucidate the well-known conceptual shift in explanations of mental illness during the twentieth century, from somatic models rooted in the logic of “neurasthenia” and damaged nerves to psychodynamic models based on the notion of “subconscious conflict.” A qualitative analysis of 336 cases categorized as functional disorders (a catchall term in this period for illnesses that could not be confirmed as organic diseases), shows that patients explained their symptoms and suffering in terms of bodily malfunctions, and, particularly, as a “breakdown” of their nervous apparatus. Psychiatrists at the Phipps Clinic, on the other hand, working under the direction of its prominent director, Adolf Meyer, did not focus their examinations and therapies on the body’s nervous system, as patients expected. They theorized that the characteristic symptoms of functional disorders—chronic exhaustion, indigestion, headaches and pain, as well as strange obsessive and compulsive behaviors—resulted from a distinct pathological mechanism: a subconscious conflict between powerful primal and social impulses. Phipps patients were often perplexed when told their physical symptoms were byproducts of an inner psychological struggle; some rejected the notion, while others integrated it with older explanations to reconceptualize their experiences of illness. The new concept also had the potential to alter psychiatrists’ perceptions of disorders commonly diagnosed as hysteria, neurasthenia, or psychoneuroses. The Phipps records contain examples of Meyer and his staff transcending the frustration experienced by many doctors who had observed troubling but common behaviors in such cases: morbid introspection, hypochondria, emotionalism, pity-seeking, or malingering. Subconscious conflict recast these behaviors as products of “self-deception,” which both absolved the sufferer and established an objective clinical marker by which a trained specialist could recognize functional disorder. Using individual case studies to elucidate the disjunction between patients’ and psychiatrists’ perspectives on what all agreed were debilitating illnesses, this analysis helps to illuminate the origins of a radical transformation in psychiatric knowledge and popular culture in the twentieth century—from somatic to psychodynamic explanations of mental illness.

The article can be found here.

JHBS Special Issue: “The Social Sciences in a Cross-Disciplinary Age”

The winter 2015 issue of Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is a special issue dedicated to “The Social Sciences in a Cross-Disciplinary Age.” Guest edited by Philippe Fontaine (left), the articles in this issue explore facets of interdisciplinarity in the social sciences post-1945. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Introduction: The Social Sciences in a Cross-Disciplinary Age,” by Philippe Fontaine. The abstract reads,

As studies of the history of social science since 1945 have multiplied over the past decade and a half, it has not been unusual for commentators to present cross-disciplinary ventures as a byproduct of the disciplinary system and to contrast the stability of disciplines with the highs and lows of interdisciplinary relationships. In contrast, this special issue takes the view that cross-disciplinary ventures should be considered not so much as efforts to loosen up the disciplinary yoke, but as an alternative form of production and dissemination of social scientific knowledge. Paradoxically, the relationship between cross-disciplinary ventures and the disciplinary system appears as one of complementarity and not of dependence. The essays in the special issue provide examples of ways to reconsider what can be called the interdisciplinary chaos.

“Mnemonic Multiples: The Case of the Columbia Panel Studies,” by Jefferson D. Pooley. The abstract reads, Continue reading JHBS Special Issue: “The Social Sciences in a Cross-Disciplinary Age”

New JHBS: Intelligence Testing in India, Racism in South Africa, & More

The autumn 2014 issue of Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online. Articles in this issue discuss the race and professional organizations in South Africa, intelligence testing in British India, and discussion over psychical, occult, and religious research at early twentieth century international congresses. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“The Rhetoric of Racism: Revisiting the Creation of the Psychological Institute of the Republic of South Africa (1956–1962),” by Wahbie Long. The abstract reads,

This paper revisits the 1962 splitting of the South African Psychological Association (SAPA), when disaffected Afrikaner psychologists broke away to form the whites-only Psychological Institute of the Republic of South Africa (PIRSA). It presents an analysis of the rhetorical justification for forming a new professional association on principles at odds with prevailing international norms, demonstrating how the episode involved more than the question of admitting black psychologists to the association. In particular, the paper argues that the SAPA-PIRSA separation resulted from an Afrikaner nationalist reading of the goals of psychological science. PIRSA, that is, insisted on promoting a discipline committed to the ethnic-national vision of the apartheid state. For its part, SAPA’s racial integration was of a nominal order only, ostensibly to protect itself from international sanction. The paper concludes that, in a racist society, it is difficult to produce anything other than a racist psychology.

“Searching for South Asian Intelligence: Psychometry in British India, 1919–1940,” by Shivrang Setlur. The abstract reads, Continue reading New JHBS: Intelligence Testing in India, Racism in South Africa, & More

New JHBS: “Primitive” Mentality, James on Emotion, Bekhterev’s Psychoreflexology, & More

The Spring 2014 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online. Included in this issue are articles on studies of “primitive” mentality, human factor psychology, William James’s theory of emotion, and Bekhterev’s (right) psychoreflexology in relation to Wundt. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Hermannsburg, 1929: Turning Aboriginal “Primitives” into Modern Psychological Subjects,” by Warwick Anderson. The abstract reads,

In 1929, the Lutheran mission at Hermannsburg (Ntaria), central Australia, became an extraordinary investigatory site, attracting an array of leading psychologists wishing to define the “primitive” mentality of the Arrernte, who became perhaps the most studied people in the British Empire and dominions. This is a story of how scientific knowledge derived from close encounters and fraught entanglements on the borderlands of the settler state. The investigators—Stanley D. Porteus, H. K. Fry, and Géza Róheim—represent the major styles of psychological inquiry in the early-twentieth century, and count among the vanguard of those dismantling rigid racial typologies and fixed hierarchies of human mentality. They wanted to evaluate “how natives think,” yet inescapably they found themselves reflecting on white mentality too. They came to recognise the primitive as an influential and disturbing motif within the civilised mind—their own minds. These intense interactions in the central deserts show us how Aboriginal thinking could make whites think again about themselves—and forget, for a moment, that many of their research subjects were starving.

“Turning Men into Machines? Scientific Management, Industrial Psychology, and the “Human Factor”,” Maarten Derksen. The abstract reads,

In the controversy that broke out in 1911 over Frederick W. Taylor’s scientific management, many critics contended that it ignored “the human factor” and reduced workers to machines. Psychologists succeeded in positioning themselves as experts of the human factor, and their instruments and expertise as the necessary complement of Taylor’s psychologically deficient system. However, the conventional view that the increasing influence of psychologists and other social scientists “humanized” management theory and practice needs to be amended. Taylor’s scientific management was not less human than later approaches such as Human Relations, but it articulated the human factor differently, and aligned it to its own instruments and practices in such a way that it was at once external to them and essential to their functioning. Industrial psychologists, on the other hand, at first presented themselves as engineers of the human factor and made the human mind an integral part of management.

““Picturesque Incisiveness”: Explaining the Celebrity of James’s Theory of Emotion,” Claudia Wassmann. The abstract reads,

William James is the name that comes to mind when asked about scientific explanations of emotion in the nineteenth century. However, strictly speaking James’s theory of emotion does not explain emotions and never did. Indeed, James contemporaries pointed this out already more than a hundred years ago. Why could “James’ theory” nevertheless become a landmark that psychologists, neuroscientists, and historians alike refer to today? The strong focus on James and Anglo-American sources in historiography has overshadowed all other answers given to the question of emotion at the time of James. For that reason, the article returns to the primary sources and places James’s work back into the context of nineteenth century brain research in which it developed.

“The Emergence and Development of Bekhterev’s Psychoreflexology in Relation to Wundt’s Experimental Psychology,” Saulo de Freitas Araujo. The abstract reads,

After its foundation, the Laboratory for Experimental Psychology at Leipzig University became an international center for psychological research, attracting students from all over the world. The Russian physiologist and psychiatrist Vladimir Bekhterev (1857–1927) was one of Wilhelm Wundt’s students in 1885, and after returning to Russia he continued enthusiastically his experimental research on mental phenomena. However, he gradually distanced himself from Wundt’s psychological project and developed a new concept of psychology: the so-called Objective Psychology or Psychoreflexology. The goal of this paper is to analyze Bekhterev’s position in relation to Wundt’s experimental psychology, by showing how the former came to reject the latter’s conception of psychology. The results indicate that Bekhterev’s development of a philosophical program, including his growing interest in establishing a new Weltanschauung is the main reason behind his divergence with Wundt, which is reflected in his conception of scientific psychology. Despite this, Wundt remained alive in Bekhterev’s mind as an ideal counterpoint.