The Looking Back feature of The Psychologist is inviting submissions on the history of psychology and the psychology of history (i.e. psychological perspectives on history). Submissions need to be @1800 words and can include reflections on key figures/periods/theories/
events, or indeed figures/theories/events that may have been lost and forgotten by psychology, but should not have been! Submissions should aim to be engaging and journalistic in writing style, and seek to engage as well as inform the reader. Articles, ideas for articles and questions can be emailed to the associate editor of the Looking Back feature Alison Torn email@example.com
The March issue of The Psychologist, the flagship magazine of the British Psychological Society, includes an article marking the centenary of psychologist Hans Eysenck’s birth. Eysenck, a controversial and very public figure within psychology, would have celebrated this milestone birthday on March 4th 2016. As the article notes,
Hans J. Eysenck (1916–1997) enjoyed an extraordinary life in British psychology, much of it played out in the limelight of public attention. His fame and influence extended beyond the shores of these isles, to encompass the globe. He inspired generations of psychologists, many of whom were enthralled by his popular books that made psychology seem so vital, relevant and even urgent. His was an open invitation: arise from the supine position on the analytical couch, leap out from the comfort of the philosophical armchair, and visit the psychology laboratory – one chapter in Fact and Fiction in Psychology (Eysenck, 1965a) is titled, ‘Visit to a psychological laboratory’. His easy-to-understand causal theories of ‘what makes people tick’ (exposing the inner working of the human clock) were especially fascinating to an inquisitive public. He also courted controversy: his style of advocating change and some of the positions he took, especially on politically charged issues like race and IQ, attracted criticism of his work, and of him.
The full piece can be read online here.
The January 2016 issue of The Psychologist, the flagship magazine of the British Psychological Society, includes a piece on the history of stereotypes surrounding only children. In “Screwed up, little despots?” Alice Violett notes
Negative perceptions of only children can be traced back to at least 1850 in Britain, and writers who identified themselves as psychologists expressed concerns about only children as early as 1867. Tellingly, the unprecedented concern with only children coincided with an increase in only children in middle-class families, which caused alarm among eugenicists. The increasing popularity of Darwin’s ideas about the importance of environment (as opposed to inborn ‘goodness’ or ‘badness’) in determining human behaviour, may also have had an impact. The only child’s problems were believed to originate in the home, where they supposedly experienced too much adult company and not enough contact with other children. Not unexpectedly, one of the results of the former was said to be the over-indulgence and over-valuation of only children.
The full piece can be read online here.
The December 2015 issue of The Psychologist, the British Psychological Society‘s flagship magazine, is now online. This month’s “Looking Back” column, written by Gail Hornstein, explores artistic depictions of madness, among them Agnes’ jacket (pictured above). As Hornstein notes,
Since at least the 13th century, artists have been fascinated by insanity. There are literally hundreds of images, most stylised and stereotypic, of ‘madness’ and ‘the madman’ (or woman). When asylums spread across 19th-century Europe, providing a captive population of mad people, artists began to use actual patients as models for their drawings and paintings. These images are often less extreme than earlier portraits, but their typically grotesque emotionality is just as dehumanising.
Patients are treated as specimens, devoid of any context, like tumour cells in a pathology manual. Even in the works of progressive physicians like Pinel or Esquirol, madness is depicted as brutality or as generalised deterioration. Esquirol’s particular interest in pathological types influenced the thinking of generations of psychiatrists and reduced the patient’s whole life to one main symptom (e.g. mania). Of course, today we take this idea far more literally than Esquirol did in the 1830s – current images of madness don’t even show the person, just their hypothesised brain defect.
The November 2015 issue of The Psychologist includes a piece on “Psychology and the Great War, 1914–1918.” Written by Ben Shepard, the article explores psychology’s various involvements in World War One. As Shepard notes,
Many of those involved in the war, on both sides of the Atlantic, were pupils of Wundt. Indeed, the academic discipline of psychology in 1914 was itself essentially a German invention. Frederic Bartlett later recalled that the course taught at Cambridge before the war ‘was Germans, Germans all the way, and if we were going to stick to psychology then to Germany sooner or later we must all surely go’. Bartlett never went to Germany himself, but nearly everyone else did; many had fond memories of the ‘unstinted kindness and precious friendship’ of very many Germans and found it uncomfortable to be at war with them. Amongst the conflict-driven dreams Rivers recorded at Craiglockhart Hospital in 1917 was one in which he found himself back in the Heidelberg laboratory where he had worked two decades before. But divided loyalties were most powerfully played out at Harvard, where Hugo Münsterberg, the pioneer of applied psychology and a deeply patriotic German, found himself surrounded by anglophile New Englanders. Instead of returning to Germany, Münsterberg stood his ground but the strain took its toll, and in December 1916, while lecturing at Barnard College, he collapsed, fell from the podium and died.
The full piece can be read online here.
The British Psychological Society’s magazine, The Psychologist, is looking for brief contributions for its regular history column “Looking Back.” Previous articles from the column are largely open access and can be read online here.
If you are interested in contributing a piece of 1800-3000 words, on the history of psychology or the psychology of history, get in touch with Managing Editor Jon Sutton at firstname.lastname@example.org or engage with the magazine on Twitter @psychmag.
The November 2014 issue of the British Psychological Society‘s The Psychologist magazine celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Robbers Cave study. A number of articles in the issue explore the legacy of the Robbers Cave study and the life and work of Muzafer Sherif more generally. Full details are available on The Psychologist‘s website. (For more on Robbers Cave see our previous posts on the study.)
Updated: Full articles in the issue can be read online, just create an account and sign-in on the BPS The Psychologist site.
The January 2014 issue of The Psychologist, the flagship publication of the British Psychological Society (BPS), is now online and includes an article on patient experiences of lobotomy. In “Looking Back: Interpreting Lobotomy – The Patients’ Stories” historian of medicine Mical Raz describes how patients and their families experienced the lobotomies preformed by Walter Freeman in the first half of the twentieth century. As Raz describes,
Freeman’s commitment toward the patients and the restoration of their health seemed so evident to patients and their families that even in cases of an unsuccessful lobotomy leading to disability or death, the families of the patients expressed their gratitude to him. Following a patient’s death after a second surgical attempt, the patient’s sister thanked Freeman and his partner, James Watts, for their ‘concern and interest’ in her sister’s condition. She was sure, she added, that her sister also would have thanked the physicians, ‘if she were able to do so’ (Maeve Ingber’s sister to James Watts, 1948). In his response, Freeman wrote that he and Watts had been ‘greatly disappointed in the outcome’. Yet he added that this had been a ‘situation of extraordinary difficulty where surgery offered the only opportunity for giving her peace of mind’. Commending the sister for her positive attitude toward ‘this unfortunate outcome’, Freeman thanked her for her letter (WF to Maeve Ingber’s sister, 1948). The physicians’ willingness to attempt surgery, and thus provide even a slim hope of cure, was interpreted as evidence of their care and dedication. For the families, this expression of interest and what was seen as a sincere desire to help their loved one was so significant that the results of the lobotomy, even the death of the patient, could be interpreted in a positive manner.
The article can be read in full here.
The just released December 2010 special issue of the British Psychological Society‘s general interest publication, The Psychologist, is dedicated to 150 years of experimental psychology, as this year marks the 150th anniversary of Gustav Fechner’s Psychophysics (see AHP‘s previous post on this anniversary here). Included in this issue are a number of short pieces by prominent scholars in the history of psychology, as well an interview with AHP‘s own Christopher Green. Authors, titles, and abstracts follow below.
“The experimental psychologist’s fallacy.” Geoff Bunn introduces a special issue marking the 150th Anniversary of Gustav Fechner’s Elements of Psychophysics. The abstract reads:
Considered by some psychologists to be the ‘founding father’ of experimental psychology, Gustav Fechner (1801–1887) was, to some extent, an uncompromisingly hardnosed materialist. Yet there was also a more conciliatory and spiritual side to his thinking. In 1835, for example, in his Little Book on Life After Death, Fechner argued that consciousness can be sustained by different ontological systems. The work of many of the great psychologists has subsequently incorporated similarly antagonistic dualisms. But these ineradicable tensions are ultimately a function not of the idiosyncrasies of individual biography but of the highly ambiguous nature of psychological knowledge itself. Continue reading History of Psychology in The Psychologist