Tag Archives: technology

Kira Lussier: From the Intuitive Human to the Intuitive Computer

In a piece over on Technology’s Stories – a project run by the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) – Kira Lussier explores the move from intuition as a human capacity to intuition as a feature of computers. In “From the Intuitive Human to the Intuitive Computer” Lussier examines

how intuition became a touchpoint within burgeoning debates around information technology systems in corporations in the 1970s and 1980s, as psychologists, IT designers and executives debated questions that continue to haunt our contemporary moment: How could computer systems, and the vast quantities of data they produce, aid managerial decision-making? What type of work could be automated and what remained the province of human expertise? Which psychological capacities, if any, could be outsourced to machines, and which remain uniquely human capacities? By turning to the past, I interrogate how practical concerns about how to design information systems were inextricably bound up in more theoretical, even existential, concerns about the nature of the human who could make such technology work.

Read the full piece online here.

A History of Panic Over Entertainment Technology

New in the online magazine Behavioral Scientist, as part of a special issue on “Connected State of Mind,” is a piece on  “A History of Panic Over Entertainment Technology” by Christopher J. Ferguson and Cathy Faye. As they note,

Since the earliest twentieth century, psychologists have been concerned with how technology affects health and well-being. In the 1930s, they weighed the effects of listening to the radio. In the 1960s, they turned their attention to television. And in more recent years, they have expanded their research to video games and cell phone use. Psychologists have always been vocal on questions about the long-term effects of entertainment technology.

However, both the past and present debates suggest that answering questions about the pros and cons of entertainment technology is complicated. Research findings have been mixed and therefore not easily translatable into policy statements, news headlines, or advice for parents. This was true in 1960 and it is true today.

Take, for example, debates regarding televised violence and childhood aggression. Between 1950 and 1970, televisions became a standard presence in American homes. However, not everyone believed they were a welcome addition. Parents, educators, and politicians questioned what they saw as excess violence and sexuality on TV.

In 1969, the Surgeon General’s Office deemed TV violence a public health problem and called on psychologists to provide definitive evidence on its effects. The million-dollar project was modeled on the well-known Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on health-related risks of tobacco use. It was hoped that evidence from the social and behavioral sciences could similarly close the case on television violence and aggressive behavior.

Read the full piece here.

History of the Human Sciences Special Issue: Psychology and its Publics

It is my pleasure to direct AHP readers to a just released special issue of History of the Human Science on Psychology and its Publics, guest edited by Michael Pettit and myself. The issue includes articles tackling a diverse array of topics on psychology’s relationship with the public, including: the public psychology of sentimentalism and the guillotine during the French Revolution; the construction of an attitudinal public in concert with the development of questionnaires; the dissemination of Albert Ellis’s rational therapy via popular media forms; the public’s interaction with psychological ideas via the graphic novel Watchmen and its queer history; the function of sexual assault surveys in structuring rape’s ontology and politicizing rape as a social issue; and consideration of the ontology of the public through the lens of deliberative public opinion. Thanks to all our contributors for their wonderful and thought provoking work!

In advance of the issue’s release I was also interviewed about the rationale and aims of the special issue by History of the Human Sciences editor-in-chief Felicity Callard. Read that interview in full here.

Full titles, authors, and abstracts for the pieces in the special issue follow below.

“Psychology and its publics,” by Michael Pettit and Jacy L. Young. Abstract:

This paper introduces the special issue dedicated to ‘Psychology and its Publics’. The question of the relationship between psychologists and the wider public has been a central matter of concern to the historiography of psychology. Where critical historians tend to assume a pliant audience, eager to adopt psychological categories, psychologists themselves often complain about the public misunderstanding of them. Ironically, both accounts share a flattened understanding of the public. We turn to research on the public understanding of science (PUS), the public engagement with science (PES) and communications studies to develop a rich account of the circuitry that ties together psychological experts and their subjects.

“The unfailing machine: Mechanical arts, sentimental publics and the guillotine in revolutionary France,” by Edward Jones-Imhotep. Abstract:

This article explores how the pre-eminent public psychology of the French Revolution – sentimentalism – shaped the necessity, understanding and construction of its most iconic public machine. The guillotine provided a solution to the problem of public executions in an age of both sentiment and reason. It was designed to rationalize punishment and make it more humane; but it was also designed to guard against the psychological effects of older, more variable and unpredictable methods of public execution on a sentimental public. That public, contemporaries argued, required executions performed by an unfailing technology. Rather than focus on the role of the guillotine after 1793, the article explores how the implacable mechanical action that helped produce the Reign of Terror and multiply the cadavers of medical science was demanded by the guillotine’s origins as a sentimental machine.

“Numbering the mind: Questionnaires and the attitudinal public,” by Jacy L. Young. Abstract: Continue reading History of the Human Sciences Special Issue: Psychology and its Publics

International Conference: Mind Reading as Cultural Practice

AHP readers may be interested in a call for paper for a conference on “Mind Reading as Cultural Practice” to be held at the Institute for Cultural Theory and History, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany, 22-23 March 2018. Full details below.

Mind Reading as Cultural Practice
International Conference to be held at the Institute for Cultural Theory and History, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany, 22-23 March 2018

Convenors: Laurens Schlicht and Christian Fassung (Humboldt University Berlin, Germany), Simone Natale (Loughborough University, UK)

Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century, a wide range of technologies and techniques have been developed to generate knowledge about what people feel, think, wish, or plan. To give just a few examples, employ physiological evidence to establish if a subject is telling the truth or if s/he is lying; subfields of psychology such as characterology are designed to identify and recognize certain types; and recently computing technologies employ algorithm and facial recognition software to make inferences about feelings and mental states.

Yet, relatively few attempts have been made to address such diverse practices in conjunction and connection with each other. This conference aims to fill this gap. Employing the concept of mind reading in a broad sense as designating any technique that helps to create knowledge about people’s feelings and states of mind, it aims to stimulate a critical debate about mind reading techniques as forms of knowledge and in regard to their political, social, and cultural dimension.

The conference’s objective is to promote a cross-disciplinary debate, taking into account also areas of knowledge that are often excluded from academic discourse, such as the occult practices of parapsychology or the practices of local police officers and marketing operatives. In this regard, speakers are encouraged to engage with a set of questions connected to the historical, epistemic and cultural dimensions of mind reading. Potential topics include but are not limited to:

– The design, production and use of technologies of mind reading. How were these technologies developed, and how did they inform the development of mind reading practices? Which functions did they have in terms of knowledge production and dissemination, and to what extent were they related to the development of discourses about technology, objectivity, subjectivity, and science?

– A perspective from historical epistemology: how are the objects of research on mind reading produced and shaped? What kinds of epistemic techniques are employed to generate knowledge about people’s state of mind, feelings, or about the veracity of their statements?

– The construction of subjectivity based on mind reading techniques: in certain specific contexts, modes of subjectivity such as the “psychopath” or the “neurasthenic” provided an important conceptual framework both for science, the legal system, and for people’s self-conception. How did the practices under consideration help to create, consolidate, or change modes of subjectivity?

– The cultural and political dimensions of mind reading: how did such technologies and practices contribute to re-shape political regimes? Which political and cultural roles did mind reading techniques play? How far and to what extent did mind reading have a transformative impact in the political arena and on broad economic and social phenomena?

Confirmed speakers include Christian Bachhiesl, Melissa Littlefield, Roger Luckhurst, Annette Mülberger, and Michael Pettit.

We welcome proposals for papers from all disciplines connected to the subject areas mentioned above. Those who wish to submit a paper should send an abstract of no more than 300 words and a short CV or bio to the following address: laurens.schlicht@hu-berlin.de

Deadline: October 1st, 2017

New HoP: Sandor Rado on Bisexuality, Psych and Social Engineering in 20th c. America, & Behavior Therapy in France

Sandor Rado

The August 2017 issue of History of Psychology is now available. Articles in this issue discuss psychoanalyst Sandor Rado’s influential views on bisexuality, American attitudes toward psychology, technology, and social engineering in the 20th century, and the difficult reception of behavior therapy in France. Full details below.

“Sandor Rado, American psychoanalysis, and the question of bisexuality,” by Tontonoz, Matthew. Abstract:

The Hungarian-born physician and psychoanalyst Sandor Rado (1890–1972), who practiced for most of his career in the United States, played a central role in shaping American psychoanalysts’ views toward homosexuality. Historians have pointed to Rado’s rejection of Freud’s notion of constitutional bisexuality as the key theoretical maneuver that both pathologized homosexuality and inspired an optimistic approach to its treatment. Yet scholarly analysis of the arguments that Rado made for his rejection of bisexuality is lacking. This article seeks to provide that analysis, by carefully reviewing and evaluating Rado’s arguments by the standards of his own day. Because one of Rado’s main arguments is that bisexuality is an outdated concept according to modern biology, I consider what contemporary biologists had to say on the topic. The work of behavioral endocrinologist Frank Beach (1911–1988) is important in this context and receives significant attention here. Rado ultimately distanced himself from Beach’s behavioral endocrinology, appealing instead to evolutionary discourse to buttress his claim that homosexuality is pathological. This tactic allowed him to refashion psychoanalysis into a moralistic discipline, one with closer ties to a medical school.

“B. F. Skinner and technology’s nation: Technocracy, social engineering, and the good life in 20th-century America,” by Rutherford, Alexandra. Abstract: Continue reading New HoP: Sandor Rado on Bisexuality, Psych and Social Engineering in 20th c. America, & Behavior Therapy in France