In February 1944 Lieutenant-Colonel Tommy Wilson, an army psychiatrist recruited from the Tavistock Clinic, submitted a nine-page report to the War Office. It focused upon the plight of tens of thousands of servicemen overseas who had, in recent times, become labelled by administrators in the British government as the ‘awkward lot’. The other term they were known by was ‘prisoners of war’.
Wilson’s report set out a series of recommendations on how to handle these men upon their return home at the end of the Second World War. The eventual result was to be far-reaching: a programme of Civil Resettlement Units (CRUs). Largely forgotten about, this programme was one of the first controlled experiments in social psychology, an early example of ‘therapeutic communities’ and is notable for its humane treatment of returning service personnel.
The November 2017 issue of History of Psychology is now online. Articles in this issue explore the American Gestalt psychology’s role at the Clarke School for the Deaf, Luigi Luciani’s work on consciousness in relation to localizationism, and professional psychology in Germany during the National Socialist period. (A fun collection of images from the Clarke School for the Deaf from 1955 is also available from Getty Images.) Full details below.
“Planes of phenomenological experience: The psychology of deafness as an early example of American Gestalt psychology, 1928–1940,” by Marion A.Schmidt. Abstract:
When, in 1928, the Clarke School for the Deaf in Northampton, Massachusetts, opened a psychological research division, it was nothing unusual in a time fascinated with the sciences of education. Yet with its longstanding ties to Northampton’s Smith College, the school was able to secure the collaboration of eminent Gestalt psychologist Kurt Koffka, who, in turn, engaged 2 more German-speaking emigrants, Margarete Eberhardt and social psychologist Fritz Heider, and Heider’s American wife Grace Moore Heider. This collaboration has seen little attention from historians, who have treated Koffka’s and Heider’s time in Northampton as a transitory phase. I argue, however, that their research on deafness adds to the history of emigration and knowledge transfer between European and American Schools of psychology, and to historical understanding of the interrelation of Gestalt, child, and social psychology. Professionals in child studies and developmental psychology were keenly interested in the holistic and introspective approach Gestalt psychology offered. Deaf children were considered a particularly fascinating research population for exploring the relationship between thought and language, perception and development, Gestalt, and reality. At the Clarke School, Grace Moore Heider was among the first Americans to apply Gestalt principles to child psychology. In a time in which pejorative eugenic beliefs dominated professional perceptions of disability, the Heiders’ groundbreaking work defined the deaf as a social and phenomenological minority. This was in opposition to dominant beliefs in deaf education, yet it points to early roots of a social model of deafness and disability, which historians usually locate in 1960s and ’70s activism.
Well it’s been a long haul, but it’s official. The Pentagon has ended their use of psychologists in the Guantánamo Bay prison.
The post-Hoffman Report AGM in Toronto this past summer saw the association executive taken to task by the membership for ongoing failure to enforce increased ethical requirements initiated in 2008’s Petition Resolution.
The media should be praised for contributing external pressure through exposure of the association’s collusion with American governmental agencies in ways that violate international human rights agreements as established by the UN, including interrogation programs run by the CIA under the Bush administration. As reported in the NY Times, a FBI-led High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, founded under the Obama admin, is the only part of the current government to have expressed concern over the APA’s new adherence to their own policies. Here’s hoping that doesn’t prove to be cause for real concern moving forward.
The Times’ piece also succinctly covers the association’s internal climate re. this most recent turn of events:
Some current and former military psychologists have been critical of the A.P.A. ban, saying it is so broadly written that it could make it difficult for them to work professionally in almost any national security setting. But advocates of the ban say it had to be written in a way that would close what they believe were longstanding loopholes in the organization’s ethics guidance.
Below please find a reverse chronology of our extensive APA torture coverage from throughout the era in which these developments occurred (It is our sincere wish to be able to end the series with this post):
The Summer 2011 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences has just been released online. This issue is a Special Issue on The Human Sciences and Cold War America, guest edited by Joel Isaac (left) of Queen Mary University of London. Articles in this special issue address, among other topics, 1960s Pentagon-funded psychological research in Vietnam, efforts to use projective tests as mental “X-ray” machines, and the relationship of rational choice models and international relations theory. Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Introduction: The human sciences and Cold War America,” by Joel Isaac. The abstract reads,
Studies of the history of the human sciences during the Cold War era have proliferated over the past decade—in JHBS and elsewhere. This special issue focuses on the connections between the behavioral sciences and the culture and politics of the Cold War in the United States. In the recent literature, there is a tendency to identify the Cold War human sciences with two main paradigms: that of psychocultural analysis, on the one hand, and of the systems sciences, on the other. The essays in the special issue both extend understanding of each of these interpretive frameworks and help us to grasp their interconnection.
The Timecapsule section of the March issue of the APA’s Monitor on Psychology features an article on the involvement of psychologist Samuel Renshaw in the Second World War. Written by Nick Joyce(right), a graduate assistant at the Archives for the History of American Psychology (AHAP), the article details Renshaw’s efforts to improve aircraft and ship recognition among members of the American military. According to Joyce,
Renshaw taught officers to identify planes and vessels as a gestalt with a “perception of total form” in a fraction of a second. Data revealed that officers going through this training had dramatically improved recognition abilities. Upon completion of the program, officers could identify more types of planes and ships, with greater accuracy and with faster recognition times. The identification school’s graduates took the techniques to their commands and spread them. Over a million combined Navy and Army personnel learned Renshaw’s techniques.
“Minerva” is the name of a project announced earlier this year by the once and future US Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, to have the Pentagon fund social science research in support of the American “War on Terror.” (Minerva was the ancient Roman goddess of wisdom. Hegel once pessimistically declared that “The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk.” That is, we only achieve wisdom once it is too late.) Continue reading US Military Funds Social Science (again)→
Perhaps it is now too late to give as a holiday gift, but the fine blog Mind Hacks has just published a review of what sounds to be a most interesting book: War of Nerves: Soldiers and Psychiatrists (Harvard, 2001), by the British journalist Ben Shephard. Although military psychology does not usually play a prominent roll in the history of psychology (apart, perhaps, from the intelligence testing of American conscripts during World War I), this book argues that it was the phenomenon of what was then known as “shell shock” during World War I that made physicians rethink their exclusively neurological view of the mind. Continue reading History of Shell Shock, Battle Fatigue, PTSD→