Tag Archives: Johns Hopkins

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.

New JHBS: Cattell at Johns Hopkins, A Tribute to Franz Samelson, & More

The Winter 2016 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online. Included in this issue are articles exploring James McKeen Cattell’s time at Johns Hopkins, the early 20th century classification of “defective delinquent” girls, and the various versions of the Weber Thesis in the social sciences. The issue also includes a special section, organized by Ben Harris, which pays tribute to the late historian of psychology Franz Samelson (right). Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“LAUNCHING A CAREER IN PSYCHOLOGY WITH ACHIEVEMENT AND ARROGANCE: JAMES McKEEN CATTELL AT THE JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY, 1882–1883,” by Michael M. Sokal. The abstract reads,

The scientific career of eminent experimentalist and psychological tester James McKeen Cattell (1860–1944) began at the Johns Hopkins University during the year (1882–1883) he held the university’s Fellowship in Philosophy. This article opens by sketching the scope of Cattell’s lifetime achievement and then briefly reviews the historical attention that his life and career has attracted during the past few decades. It then outlines the origins and evolution of Cattell’s “scientific ideology,” traces the course of events that led to his fellowship, reviews his earliest studies at Johns Hopkins, and analyzes in some detail his initial laboratory successes. These laid the groundwork for his later distinguished work as a psychological experimentalist, both in Europe and America. It concludes, however, that even as Cattell’s early experimental achievements impressed others, the personal arrogance he exhibited during his year in Baltimore served to alienate him from his colleagues and teachers. Over the long run, this arrogance and his often-antagonistic approach to others continued to color (and even shape) his otherwise distinguished more than 50-year scientific career.

““SAFEGUARDING THE INTERESTS OF THE STATE” FROM DEFECTIVE DELINQUENT GIRLS,” by Kate E. Sohasky. The abstract reads, Continue reading New JHBS: Cattell at Johns Hopkins, A Tribute to Franz Samelson, & More

New Issue of HoP: Baldwin & the Baltimore Bordello, Digital History, & Einfühlung (Empathy)

The November 2013 issue of History of Psychology is now online. Included in this issue is an article on the sex scandal that led James Mark Baldwin (right) to resign from Johns Hopkins University in 1909. Written by longtime Baldwin scholar Robert Wozniak (along with Jorge Santiago-Blay), the piece describes in detail the circumstances surrounding Baldwin’s arrest in a Baltimore bordello. The issue also includes a digital exploration of the contents of G. Stanley Hall’s American Journal of Psychology and Pedagogical Seminary (by AHP bloggers Jacy Young and Christopher Green), a piece documenting the conceptual history of Einfühlung (or empathy),  and an article on the research possibilities of the Society for the History of Psychology’s History of Psychology Newsletter. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Trouble at Tyson Alley: James Mark Baldwin’s arrest in a Baltimore bordello,” by Robert H. Wozniak and Jorge A. Santiago-Blay. The abstract reads,

In June 1908, James Mark Baldwin, then Professor of Psychology and Philosophy at Johns Hopkins University and at the pinnacle of his career, was arrested in a Baltimore house of prostitution. Although he insisted on both his legal and moral innocence and all legal charges against him were dismissed, the threat of scandal led Hopkins authorities to demand Baldwin’s resignation and Baldwin to remove himself and his family permanently to France. While this is one of the most notorious events in the early history of American psychology, almost nothing has been known about the incident itself, because both Baldwin and Hopkins took great pains to keep these details private. Based on court records, contemporary newspaper accounts, and archival materials in the Presidential Records at Hopkins and elsewhere, it is now possible to reconstruct the events of 1908 and their aftermath in detail. This article describes these occurrences; places them in the context of Baldwin’s life, personality, and career; presents newly obtained information on the immediate consequences of the arrest, including circumstances leading to Baldwin’s forced resignation; and describes the long-term impact of Baldwin’s removal from the United States. Although no definitive conclusion with regard to Baldwin’s guilt or innocence can be reached, we conclude by contrasting the treatment received at the hands of his colleagues in psychology with the lifelong support received from his wife and family, and suggest that Baldwin may have been the victim of a premature rush to judgment.

“An exploratory digital analysis of the early years of G. Stanley Hall’s American Journal of Psychology and Pedagogical Seminary,” by Jacy L. Young and Christopher D. Green. The abstract reads, Continue reading New Issue of HoP: Baldwin & the Baltimore Bordello, Digital History, & Einfühlung (Empathy)