“A Neurotic Dog’s Life: Experimental Psychiatry and the Conditional Reflex Method in the Work of W. Horsley Gantt,” by Edmund Ramsden. Abstract:
From the 1920s, inspired by the work of Ivan Pavlov, many American psychiatrists, physiologists, and psychologists turned to the animal laboratory. Focusing on the work of W. Horsley Gantt, this essay will explore the use of the conditional reflex method in the study of “experimental neurosis.” Concentrating on the interaction between thought and material operations in Gantt’s Pavlovian Laboratory, the essay will show how idiosyncratic emotional reactions and behaviors among experimental animals were used to address the issue of individuality in science, medicine, and society. It was through working with the dog that individuality was identified as an incessant problem that could be utilized in laboratory practice, as a necessary focus of psychiatric medicine, and as a means of defending science from excessive determinism and stereotyped thinking.