This interactive timeline offers the reader a brief guide to this longer history. I define replication fairly broadly, but attempt to not simply offer a history of psychology in its entirety. Instead, I have focused on famous replication controversies from the past alongside the development of psychology’s favored research methods.
I am personally quite agnostic as to the value of the current interest in direct replication. My worry is that it distracts (as is often the case in psychology) from questions of external validity. My goal is to provide a richer context for contemporary controversies animating psychology.
I welcome corrections, updates, and suggestions of relevant topics. Please contact me at mpettit at yorku.ca
For anyone interested in exploring the history of laboratories, instruments, and the material culture of psychology more generally, I have put together the following bibliography. Sources have been organized into the following categories: Laboratories, Instruments, Online Resources, Instrument Collections, and Introductory Material Culture Readings. For the purposes of this bibliography, “material culture” has been interpreted quite broadly. Rather than focus solely on writings narrowly confined to this field, a variety of sources that touch on the history of material objects – especially those related to the history of science – have been included here. Other items included in the bibliography also look at unconventional instruments, including paper tools, tests, and organisms as instruments. A number of reference works, photographic collections, and online resources are also provided. The bibliography is by no means complete and suggested additions are welcome and appreciated. And don’t forget to check out the full list of our bibliographies on our Resources page. Happy reading!
Update: The post now includes a section of sources, provided by Ryan Tweney, on instruments, experiments, and replication. Additional readings suggested by Rodrigo Miranda – including many in French, Portuguese, and Spanish – have also been added, as has a reading suggested by Gabriel Ruiz. Our thanks to them all.
Bibliography: Laboratories, Instruments, and the Material Culture of Psychology
Benjamin, Jr., L. T. (2000). The psychology laboratory at the turn of the 20th century. American Psychologist, 55(3), 318–321. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.55.3.318
Capshew, J. H. (1992). Psychologists on site: A reconnaissance of the historiography of the laboratory. American Psychologist, 47(2), 132–142. doi: 10.1037//0003-066X.47.2.132
Garvey, C. R. (1929). List of American psychology laboratories. Psychological Bulletin, 26, 652-660. doi:10.1037/h0075811
Brooks, J. I. (1993). Philosophy and psychology at the Sorbonne, 1885–1913. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 29(2), 123–145. doi:10.1002/1520-6696(199304)29:2<123::AID-JHBS2300290204>3.0.CO;2-C
Cirino, S. D., Miranda, R. L., & da Cruz, R. N. (2012). The beginnings of behavior analysis laboratories in Brazil: A pedagogical view. History of Psychology, 15(3), 263–272. doi: 10.1037/a0026306
Green, C. D. (2010). Scientific objectivity and E. B. Titchener’s experimental psychology. Isis, 101(4), 697–721. doi:10.1086/657473
Koutstaal, W. (1992). Skirting the abyss: A history of experimental explorations of automatic writing in psychology. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 28(1), 5–27. doi:10.1002/1520-6696(199201)28:1<5::AID-JHBS2300280102>3.0.CO;2-X
This Sunday October 30th, just in time for Halloween, the Discovery Channel is airing a special episode of their series Curiosity. The series itself is described on Discovery’s website as
an adventure of discovery, an expedition to uncover the truths behind life’s most challenging questions. With an insatiable thirst for answers and experiences, we’re prepared to do anything, go anywhere and ask anyone to get to the heart of the matter. Whether it’s jumping out of an airplane to confront fear, having neuroscientists implant false memories, or donating tissue to test the possibility of regeneration, there is nothing stopping us as we embark on a global journey of learning and surprises.
Curiosity asks and answers the most fundamental questions facing the world today. Each episode of Curiosity will focus on a single enduring question in science, technology, and society. As is always the case, one single question cascades into several more, making each episode of Curiosity a rich and textured experience. From the micro to the macro, we tackle provocative and insightful questions. Is there a Creator? Is it likely there’s an alternate universe? Could you find out exactly how you are going to die and would you want to know? Are some people genetically prone to violence? Is time travel really possible? Why is it that we dream? What don’t we know about gravity and does it hold the secret for exploring the universe?
Sunday’s episode tackles the question of evil. How Evil Are You?, hosted by horror film director Eli Roth, explores the nature of evil. And, of course, the Milgram obedience to authority experiments are front and center. As has been done a number of times in the last several years, the program attempts to replicate Milgram’s experiment to see if his finding – that ordinary people can be pushed to do horrible things – still holds. The episode is described as follows
Actor/Director Eli Roth is no stranger to exploring the nature of evil. As a master of horror with films like Inglorious Basterds and Hostel, Roth turns his lens to research possibly the most horrifying monster of them all – the average American. In CURIOSITY’s “How Evil are You?”, Roth sets out to recreate the infamous Milgram experiment to see how, or if, the results have changed. Roth himself even undergoes tests and scans to see if he carries what researchers dub “the evil gene.” So does Hollywood’s famous horror director have a little extra ‘edge’ in his craft?…
The video above offers a brief introduction to the program, much of which is focused on the Milgram replication, while the clip below is specifically of the show’s obedience to authority segment. Tune in Sunday at 9pm EST to see what you think of this latest recreation of Milgram’s now infamous experiments.
You can find AHP’s previous coverage of Milgram’s obedience to authority experiments here.
BBC News reports that the Milgram obedience to authority experiments have been reimagined by a French reality TV show, The Game of Death. Participants on the show were instructed to administer electric shocks of near lethal voltage to other contestants, unaware that in fact these shocks were not being administered and that their rival contestants were actors. Of the show’s contestants, 82% agreed to administer the shocks.
The original obedience to authority studies were conducted by Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram in the 1960s. Milgram assigned participants in his studies the role of “teacher” and required them to administer shocks of increasing voltage to what were presented as other participants, but were in fact confederates of the researcher (and thus not actually shocked). The confederate, labeled the “learner”, was required to recall a series of word pairs and when they failed to do so the “teacher” was instructed to administer a shock. The experimenter then proded the “teacher” to continue administering shocks despite the objections of the “learner.” Remarkably, two-thirds of participants administered the highest level of shock.
Full details on The Game of Death, as well as video of the BBC News item on the story can be found here. Previous AHP posts on the Milgram experiments can be found here, here, here, here, and here.
It is often thought that “old” experiments — especially in topics like social psychology — may not reveal very much about how people would behave today. Today’s people, the story is often told, are more sophisticated than the lock-step dupes of times past. This “explanation” is often repeated even in the face of modern replications showing that people are as just as likely, for instance, to give severe electrical shocks to strangers as they were back in the early 1960s (here). And we have recently seen all too clearly that people in the “real world” will still follow orders to torture others. Continue reading Asch Conformity Replication→
The March 2008 issue of the journal Science & Education, guest edited by Ryan Tweney, reports replications of five historically significant psychological practices and studies that were conducted by graduate students at Bowling Green State University where Tweney is an emeritus professor of psychology.
The replications include: (a) Gertrude Stein’s study of automatic writing, (b) Egon Brunswik’s experiments showing the superiority of perception to reasoning in estimating an object’s size, (c) an 1896 study of the effects of sleep deprivation, (d) the practice of phrenology, (e) Wundt’s study of the scope of consciousness using a metronome. Continue reading Replications of Historical Psychological Studies→
The BBC documentary program “Horizon” has partially replicated the landmark sensory deprivation experiments of the 1950s and 1960s. Interest in these studies has been spurred anew by recent claims that the studies were sponsored by the CIA, who were attempting to develop method of psychologically breaking down prisoners without resorting to physical torture, and that the techniques developed then are being used now in places like Abu Graib and Guantanamo Bay.
According to an article at BBC News/Magazine, six volunteers were shut inside cells in a nuclear bunker for a period of 48 hours. Three were left in total darkness. Three others were given some light, but made to wear translucent goggles and foam padding over their hands and arms. Continue reading Sensory Deprivation at the BBC→
Stanley Milgram’s obedience studies of the early 1960s have been something of a staple on this blog (e.g., here, here, and here), in no small part because there has been a lot of news about them of late. I have frequently mentioned that last year the ABC show Primetime did a modified replication of Milgram’s first and most famous obedience study, in which about 2/3 of seemingly normal Americans were willing to shock an apparent fellow participant to the point of death on the orders of a scientist. Continue reading Full ABC Milgram Replication Online→
As almost everyone knows, back in the early 1960s, Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted a study in which subjects were persuaded to deliver what appeared to be increasingly severe electric shocks to a confederate (who they thought to be simply another subject), often up to the point apparently killing the other person. There have long been questions about whether the study could be replicated, until it was done in an episode of ABC Primetime earlier this year.
Another widespread criticism has been that the high susceptibility that Milgram found of people to follow authority figures would not generalize well outside of the laboratory. The Boston Globe is now reporting a story that might put this question to rest as well. This past August a Massachusetts institution that specializes in the treatment of people with autism, mental retardation, and emotional problems, the Judge Rotenberg center, was tricked into delivering dozens of electric shocks to two of its special education students when staff were ordered to do so over the telephone by a former student posing as a school supervisor. Continue reading Milgram Study Comes to Life (Again)→