The May 2017 issue of History of Psychology is now online. Articles in this issue explore neurohistory, the influence of Titchener’s Oxford years on his thought, and gender and psychoanalysis in 1940s Britain. The issue also features a special section devoted to “Debating the New History of Psychology.” Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Historiography, affect, and the neurosciences,” by Larry S. McGrath. Abstract:
Recent historiography has put to rest debates over whether to address the neurosciences. The question is how? In this article, I stage a dialogue between neurohistory and the history of the emotions. My primary goal is to survey these two clusters and clarify their conceptual commitments. Both center on the role of affect in embodied subjectivity; but their accounts widely diverge. Whereas neurohistorians tend to treat affects as automatic bodily processes, historians of the emotions generally emphasize that affects are meaningful and volitional activities. This divergence entails contrasting understandings of selfhood, embodiment, and historical change. More importantly, I argue, it reflects a broader realm of disputes within the neurosciences. The divisions among methodologies and commitments testify to the importance of historians’ selection of evidence as well as the critical perspectives they can bring to scientific debates. The neurosciences do not offer readymade theories. Secondarily, I take stock of the shared limitations of neurohistory and the history of the emotions. Both conceptualize the biological bases of affection as a universal ground for historical inquiry. By reexamining this transhistorical approach to neuroscientific evidence, I suggest that historiography might widen the horizon of interdisciplinary scholarship beyond the present options.
“Margaret F. Washburn in The American Journal of Psychology: A Cognitive Precursor?,” by José T. Boyano. The abstract reads,
In the early 20th century, Margaret F. Washburn (1871–1939) produced numerous studies on perception, affective value of stimulus, memory, emotions, and consciousness. This experimental work was published in The American Journal of Psychology. The purpose of this article is to analyze the temporal evolution of these kinds of experiments and relate them to Washburn’s theoretical production. Contrary to other views, Washburn’s experimental evolution follows a logical sequence and has a strong inner coherence. Among other reasons, the lack of a scientific and social framework to the study of the mind has tended to overshadow large areas of Washburn’s thought. However, both the work published in AJP and the methods used in experiments provide reasons to consider Washburn one of the precursors of contemporary cognitive psychology.
“The Synthetic Experiment: E. B. Titchener’s Cornell Psychological Laboratory and the Test of Introspective Analysis,” by Rand B. Evans. The abstract reads,
Beginning in 1900, a major thread of research was added to E. B. Titchener’s Cornell laboratory: the synthetic experiment. Titchener and his graduate students used introspective analysis to reduce a perception, a complex experience, into its simple sensory constituents. To test the validity of that analysis, stimulus patterns were selected to reproduce the patterns of sensations found in the introspective analyses. If the original perception can be reconstructed in this way, then the analysis was considered validated. This article reviews development of the synthetic method in E. B. Titchener’s laboratory at Cornell University and examines its impact on psychological research.
“The Method of Negative Instruction: Herbert S. Langfeld’s and Ludwig R. Geissler’s 1910–1913 Insightful Studies,” by Robert W. Proctor and Aiping Xiong. The abstract reads,
Herbert S. Langfeld and Ludwig R. Geissler published insightful articles during the period of 1910–1913 using what they called the Method of Negative Instruction, which anticipated much current research on action control and the role of instructions. We review their studies and relate the findings to contemporary research and views concerning task-irrelevant congruency effects and deception, concluding that their work has not received the credit it warrants. We also call for contemporary researchers to revisit prior studies, especially ones conducted before the cognitive revolution in psychology, to enrich their knowledge of the field and improve the quality of their research.
The Winter 2014 issue of the American Journal of Psychology is now available online. The issue’s “History of Psychology” section includes two articles of interest to AHP readers. Robert Proctor and Rand Evans discuss the complicated relationship between Edward Titchener and female psychologists, given that he trained a number of early American female psychologists, yet excluded women from his society the Experimentalists. In another piece Serge Nicolas and Jacy Young (full disclosure: the latter is the author of this blog post) introduce a translation of a French description of the psychology laboratory at Clark University from 1893. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“E. B. Titchener, Women Psychologists, and the Experimentalists,” by Robert W. Proctor and Rand Evans. The abstract reads,
A well-known fact is that E. B. Titchener, a major figure in psychology in the first quarter of the 20th century, excluded women from the group known as the Experimentalists, which he formed in 1904. This fact provides the basis for depicting him as a misogynist. Less well known and publicized is that he was arguably the strongest advocate for women psychologists in the United States throughout his academic career. He supervised the graduate study of Margaret Washburn, the first woman to receive a PhD in psychology in the United States, directed more than 20 dissertations for women psychologists, most of which were published in The American Journal of Psychology, and influenced and befriended others who were not his PhD students. The purpose of this article is to make psychologists more aware of the prominent role Titchener played in the education of early women psychologists and to reconcile this contribution with his position that the Experimentalists should be restricted to men.
Prominent among the historical precursors of today’s PowerPoint presentations is the “magic lantern,” which came into wide use in classrooms of the late 19th century. An early sort of slide projector dating to the 17th century, the magic lantern contained a light source (a gas flame or electric bulb) that transilluminated large glass slides bearing images that were projected through lenses onto large cloth screens. Some versions, such as the “episcope,” could project laboratory instruments such as kymographs and other opaque objects onto screens, thus allowing instructors to present live scientific phenomena to large audiences.
Smith goes on to describe the use of the magic lantern by such early luminaries as Wilhelm Wundt, E. B. Titchener, and Edward Scripture. He writes,
By the time the new psychology reached American shores in the late 1800s, college students had developed a strong appetite for image-driven science. These students had many attractive options for sciences to pursue, and psychology professors recognized that their new and still-marginal discipline needed to match the pedagogical flair of the older sciences. In 1897, Scripture wrote that “comparisons are constantly drawn between the various departments, and merely as a matter of self-preservation the psychological laboratory must offer courses equal in attractiveness and value to those of physics, chemistry and biology. A lecture room with at least a single lantern … should be provided. … The students are no longer a ‘class’ to be taught; they are an ‘audience’ that must be led.”
Thus the magic lantern, which arrived from Germany in tandem with scientific psychology, was seen as a crucial means of attracting the student following that would help psychology survive against the competition of entrenched sciences.
The full article, “Multimedia 1890s,” can be read online here.