The April 2017 issue of Philosophy of Science includes an article that may be of interest to AHP readers. John Jackson Jr. (left) tackles the history racism within the context of cognitive and evolutionary psychology. Full details below.
“Cognitive/Evolutionary Psychology and the History of Racism,” by John P. Jackson Jr. The abstract reads,
Philosophical defenses of cognitive/evolutionary psychological accounts of racialism claim that classification based on phenotypical features of humans was common historically and is evidence for a species-typical, cognitive mechanism for essentializing. They conclude that social constructionist accounts of racialism must be supplemented by cognitive/evolutionary psychology. This article argues that phenotypical classifications were uncommon historically until such classifications were socially constructed. Moreover, some philosophers equivocate between two different meanings of “racial thinking.” The article concludes that social constructionist accounts are far more robust than psychological accounts for the origins of racialism.
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
This post is written by Thomas Teo, York University and is part of a special series of bibliographies on topics in the history of psychology.
Adapted from: Teo, T. (2008). Race and psychology. In W. A. Darity (Ed.), International encyclopedia of the social sciences (2nd ed.) (Vol. 7, pp. 21-24). Detroit, MI: Macmillan.
Before the formal institutionalization of psychology in the nineteenth century, academics attributed psychological qualities to specific ethnic groups (doing so can even be found in Aristotle’s writings). However, the systematic combination of psychological characteristics with race occurred in the eighteenth century when Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778) combined varieties of humans (“races”) with psychological and social characteristics in his taxonomy. Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752-1840) advanced the concept of the Caucasian based on his idea that European culture originated in the Caucasus. The term Caucasian, still used in empirical studies of psychology, has no scientific validity.
In the second half of nineteenth century some European scholars suggested that the Caucasian variety divided into two branches, identified as Semites and Aryans. Both were associated with different psychological characteristics and formed the theoretical basis for Hitler’s ideology. In the 1860s John Langdon H. Down (1829-1896) studied the structure and function of various organs in idiots and imbeciles. He observed a group of individuals that he characterized as having round faces, flattened skulls, extra folds of skin over their eyelids, protruding tongues, short limbs, and retardation of motor and mental abilities. Continue reading Bibliography: Race and Racism