Tag Archives: memory

Leo Postman and George Miller in the New AJP

L-R: Harry F. Harlow, Judson S. Brown, and Leo J. Postman. Copyright: Department of Psychology, UNL.

The Fall 2017 issue of the American Journal of Psychology features two articles marking the journal’s 130th anniversary. The first explores the work of experimentalist Leo Postman and the second, the contributions of George Miller to the American Journal of PsychologyFull details below.

“Leo J. Postman: Master Experimentalist,” by James S. Nairne and Michelle E. Coverdale. Abstract:

Leo J. Postman was an internationally recognized experimental psychologist whose work after World War II helped frame the modern empirical study of perception, memory, and other psychological processes. Postman was important to The American Journal of Psychology, serving as a frequent contributor, and the journal remained important to him throughout his career; in fact, he ended his research career as its co-editor. In this article, we briefly review some of his contributions to the journal and try to identify the consistent themes that defined his work. His views and his choice of topics tracked the significant theoretical issues of his time and remain a model of theoretical and empirical rigor.

“Breaking Into the Mind: George A. Miller’s Early Work in the American Journal of Psychology,” by William D. Raymond and Alice F. Healy. Abstract:

Reviewed here are the 9 scholarly articles written by George A. Miller for The American Journal of Psychology (AJP), all dated from 1944 to 1958. These articles include studies on discrimination, temporal judgments, auditory patterns, operant conditioning, animal behavior, verbal recall, and language structure. There are empirical and theoretical investigations and investigations combining both experiments and theory. Despite their breadth and the variety of subjects and procedures, all of the Miller studies in AJP can be viewed as following with behaviorist traditions rather than dealing with more complex cognition. During this time Miller’s view of psychology was changing; these studies, with their inventive methods, can also be seen as initial attempts to break into the mind, or to uncover and understand cognitive processes, in a way that had been discouraged by behaviorist traditions. The studies all also point to the need to consider the immediate contexts and long-term histories of the observer’s experiences, which implicate the broader statistical learning mechanism that is now considered to underlie human learning. The AJP articles reviewed here foreshadow the wide-ranging and profound influence Miller had on psychology and related fields of study. Miller has been described as a founder or pioneer of a number of fields, including psycholinguistics, mathematical psychology, applied psychology, cognitive science, and computational approaches to linguistic analysis. Because of his huge impact on so many areas and his eagerness to communicate psychology’s importance to others, Miller can be considered an ambassador of psychology to a wider audience.

Special Issue on Historical Cognition’s Dilemmas and Advances

A recently released special issue of Memory Studies is dedicated to the issue of historical cognition. Guest edited by Peter Hegarty and Olivier Klein the issue explores historical cognition’s dilemmas as well as recent advances in historical cognition. As Hegarty and Klein note in their open access introduction to the special issue “social psychology has always been a somewhat liminal disciplinary endeavor, which might provide a particular vantage point from which to consider the relationship between psychology’s individual subject and historical sense-making.” Their introduction further notes,

This Special Issue presents papers that draw together recent insights about historical cognition from several social psychologists. Early psychologists such as G. Stanley Hall, Wilhelm Wundt, and Sigmund Freud described histories of “civilization” to explain adult human rationality in European and American cultures of their times. Enthusiasm for experimental methods and individual research subjects quickly widened the gap between psychological and historical explanation. Frederick Bartlett’s (1932) investigations of serial memory aimed to understand how collective memories might be sustained in cultures, but they also signaled a parting of the ways between experimental psychology and social anthropology in Britain. Psychology has since often been viewed as wedding historical scholarship—for better or worse—to theories of the individual subject, as when psychologist Lewis Terman (1941) called on historians to look to IQ tests not texts as their raw materials, or when William Langer asked the American Historical Association in 1958 to integrate psychoanalysis into historical scholarship (Runyan, 1988). Fischer (1970) looked to psychologist David McClelland’s understanding of power motives to imagine a historian’s logic without obvious fallacies. The “subjects” that psychology has offered to seduce historians’ engagement illustrate the history of both disciplines, and position our attempt at recent advances in historical cognition here, which was supported by European Cooperation in Science and Technology through COST Action IS 1205: Social psychological dynamics of historical representations in the enlarged European Union.

The full special issue can be found here.

BBC Radio: “The Psychology of War”

As part of the programme, The War that Changed the World, BBC Radio has aired an episode on “The Psychology of War.” The episode features an expert panel and live audience discussing war’s psychological effects. As described on the BBC Radio website,

One hundred years ago World War One set the course for the twentieth century; for the countries that took part nothing would be the same again. In this worldwide series of events with the British Council, we look at the impact of the war from around the world.

The third debate of the series comes from The Imperial War Museum in London as we explore the psychology of war. What drove men to volunteer for the war? What drove them to the edge of sanity when they got there?

Historian and broadcaster Amanda Vickery is joined by a panel of experts and a live audience to explore the mental impact of fighting the war at home and abroad. World War One experts Dan Todman (Queen Mary, University of London) and Michael Roper (University of Essex) are joined by the celebrated cultural historian, Joanna Bourke (Birkbeck, University of London), who presents her specially commissioned essay, Shell Shock and the Shock of Shells.

You can listen to this episode here and explore other episodes in the series here. You can also enrol in the Open University’s accompanying free online course, “World War 1: Trauma and Memory,” here.

New JHBS: Mine Detection Dogs, Memory Improvement, Robert Owen, & the Street Corner Society

The winter 2014 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online. Included in this issue are articles describing the development of mine detector dogs during World War Two, late-nineteenth century advice on improving natural memory, parallels between debates over Robert Owen’s role in the history of sociology and contemporary sociology, and the roots of sociologist William Foote Whyte’s Street Corner Society. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“In Dogs We Trust? Intersubjectivity, Response-Able Relations, and the Making of Mine Detector Dogs,” by Robert G. W. Kirk. The abstract reads,

The utility of the dog as a mine detector has divided the mine clearance community since dogs were first used for this purpose during the Second World War. This paper adopts a historical perspective to investigate how, why, and to what consequence, the use of minedogs remains contested despite decades of research into their abilities. It explores the changing factors that have made it possible to think that dogs could, or could not, serve as reliable detectors of landmines over time. Beginning with an analysis of the wartime context that shaped the creation of minedogs, the paper then examines two contemporaneous investigations undertaken in the 1950s. The first, a British investigation pursued by the anatomist Solly Zuckerman, concluded that dogs could never be the mine hunter’s best friend. The second, an American study led by the parapsychologist J. B. Rhine, suggested dogs were potentially useful for mine clearance. Drawing on literature from science studies and the emerging subdiscipline of “animal studies,” it is argued that cross-species intersubjectivity played a significant role in determining these different positions. The conceptual landscapes of Zuckerman and Rhine’s disciplinary backgrounds are shown to have produced distinct approaches to managing cross-species relations, thus explaining how diverse opinions on minedog can coexist. In conclusion, it is shown that the way one structures relationships between humans and animals has profound impact on the knowledge and labor subsequently produced, a process that cannot be separated from ethical consequence.

“Advice for Improving Memory: Exercising, Strengthening, and Cultivating Natural Memory, 1860–1910,” by Alan F. Collins. The abstract reads,

The idea that human memory can be improved appears to be as ancient as the concept of memory itself. Continue reading New JHBS: Mine Detection Dogs, Memory Improvement, Robert Owen, & the Street Corner Society

Toronto Talk, Oct. 9th: Permanent Present Tense: The Unforgettable Life of the Amnesic Patient, HM

For anyone in the Toronto area, an upcoming talk at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) may be of interest. On October 9th, at 6pm, Dr. Suzanne Corkin will be speaking on her recent book, Permanent Present Tense: The Unforgettable Life of the Amnesic Patient, HM. Corkin spent decades studying the patient popularly known as H.M., who was revealed to be Henry Molaison after his death in 2008. (See  AHP’s previous post on the fate of H.M.’s brain here.) Research with H.M., who was unable to form longterm memories following extensive brain surgery for epilepsy, was central to psychological work on how longterm memories are formed.

The event – sponsored by the Faculty of Health, York University, the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest, and the Department of Psychology, University of Toronto – is free to attend but pre-registration is required. The Permanent Present Tense lecture is described as follows,

Dr. Suzanne Corkin is an esteemed memory expert and Professor Emerita of Neuroscience in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT (Cambridge, MA). Dr. Corkin is best known for her work with one of the most famous cases in medical history, the amnesic patient Henry Gustave Molaison. In her lecture, Dr. Corkin will speak about their nearly 50-year research partnership, which taught us much of what we know today about memory. Her lecture will be followed by a signing of her recent book, Permanent Present Tense, which documents the incredible story of H.M. and his groundbreaking contributions to the science of memory.