Posts Tagged ‘ psychology ’

Italian Psychology and Jewish Emigration under Fascism From Florence to Jerusalem and New York


Patrizia Guarnieri, Professor of Cultural and Social History at the University of Florence, has just published a book on the fate of the persecuted Jewish psychologists in Italy. The blurb reads:

Fascism and the racial laws of 1938 dramatically changed the scientific research and the academic community. Guarnieri focuses on psychology, from its promising origins to the end of the WWII. Psychology was marginalized in Italy both by the neo-idealistic reaction against science, and fascism (unlike Nazism) with long- lasting consequences. Academics and young scholars were persecuted because they were antifascist or Jews and the story of Italian displaced scholars is still an embarrassing one. The book follows scholars who emigrated to the United States, such as psychologist Renata Calabresi, and to Palestine, such as Enzo Bonaventura.  Guarnieri traces their journey and the help they received from antifascist and Zionist networks and by international organizations. Some succeeded, some did not, and very few went back.

For more information, click here.

Special Issue of Science in Context: “Of Means and Ends: Mind and Brain Science in the Twentieth Century”

The latest issue of Science in Context, guest edited by Stephen T. Casper, deals with the mind and brain sciences in the twentieth century. Its essays cover a range of topics relevant to H-Madness readers, from the Thematic Apperception Test to Edgar Adrian’s Thermionic Vacuum Tube, from Hugo Münsterberg’s Psychotechnics to the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, and from the Psychosurgery Controversy of the 1970s to the Intersecting Histories of Psychiatry and Psychology in Twentieth-Centuy US.

Titles and abstracts below:

Of Means and Ends: Mind and Brain Science in the Twentieth Century

Stephen T. Casper

What role does context play in the mind and brain sciences? This introductory article, “Of Means and Ends,” explores that question through its focus on the ways scientists and physicians engaged with and constructed technology in the mind and brain sciences in the twentieth century. This topical issue addresses how scientists, physicians, and psychologists came to see the ends of technology as important in-and-of themselves. In so doing, the authors of these essays offer an interpretation of historian Paul Forman’s revisionist and highly contextualist chronology of the twentieth century, which presents the comparatively recent tendency to aggrandize the ends of technology as evidence of a major, epochal transformation in the epistemic culture of twentieth-century American science. This collection of papers suggests that it was in the vanguard of such fields as psychology, psychiatry, and neurophysiology in North America and Europe that the ends and applications of technology became important in-and-of themselves.

Dredging and Projecting the Depths of Personality: The Thematic Apperception Test and the Narratives of the Unconscious

Jason Miller

The Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) was a projective psychological test created by Harvard psychologist Henry A. Murray and his lover Christina Morgan in the 1930s. The test entered the nascent intelligence service of the United States (the OSS) during the Second World War due to its celebrated reputation for revealing the deepest aspects of an individual’s unconscious. It subsequently spread as a scientifically objective research tool capable not only of dredging the unconscious depths, but also of determining the best candidate for a management position, the psychological complexes of human nature, and the unique characteristics of a culture. Two suppositions underlie the utility of the test. One is the power of narrative. The test entails a calculated abuse of the subjects tested, based on their inability to interpret their own narrative. The form of the test requires that a subject fail to decipher the coded, unconscious meaning their narrative reveals. Murray believed the interpretation of a subject’s narrative and the projection contained therein depended exclusively on the psychologist. This view of interpretation stems from the seemingly more reasonable belief of nineteenth-century Romantic thinkers that a literary text serves as a proxy for an author’s deepest self. The TAT also supposes that there is something beyond consciousness closely resembling a psychoanalytic unconscious, which also has clear precedents in nineteenth-century German thought. Murray’s views on literary interpretation, his view of psychology as well as the continuing prevalence of the TAT, signals a nineteenth-century concept of self that insists “on relations of depth and surface, inner and outer life” (Galison 2007, 277). It is clear the hermeneutic practice of Freud’s psychoanalysis, amplified in Jung, drew on literary conceptions of the unconscious wider than those of nineteenth-century psychology.

The Birth of Information in the Brain: Edgar Adrian and the Vacuum Tube

Justin Garson

As historian Henning Schmidgen notes, the scientific study of the nervous system would have been “unthinkable” without the industrialization of communication in the 1830s. Historians have investigated extensively the way nerve physiologists have borrowed concepts and tools from the field of communications, particularly regarding the nineteenth-century work of figures like Helmholtz and in the American Cold War Era. The following focuses specifically on the interwar research of the Cambridge physiologist Edgar Douglas Adrian, and on the technology that led to his Nobel-Prize-winning research, the thermionic vacuum tube. Many countries used the vacuum tube during the war for the purpose of amplifying and intercepting coded messages. These events provided a context for Adrian’s evolving understanding of the nerve fiber in the 1920s. In particular, they provide the background for Adrian’s transition around 1926 to describing the nerve impulse in terms of “information,” “messages,” “signals,” or even “codes,” and for translating the basic principles of the nerve, such as the all-or-none principle and adaptation, into such an “informational” context. The following also places Adrian’s research in the broader context of the changing relationship between science and technology, and between physics and physiology, in the first few decades of the twentieth century.

Screening the Psychological Laboratory: Hugo Münsterberg, Psychotechnics, and the Cinema, 1892–1916

Jeremy Blatter

According to Hugo Münsterberg, the direct application of experimental psychology to the practical problems of education, law, industry, and art belonged by definition to the domain of psychotechnics. Whether in the form of pedagogical prescription, interrogation technique, hiring practice, or aesthetic principle, the psychotechnical method implied bringing the psychological laboratory to bear on everyday life. There were, however, significant pitfalls to leaving behind the putative purity of the early psychological laboratory in pursuit of technological utility. In the Vocation Bureau, for example, psychological instruments were often deemed too intimidating for a public unfamiliar with the inner workings of experimental science. Similarly, when psychotechnical means were employed by big business in screening job candidates, ethical red flags were raised about this new alliance between science and capital. This tension was particularly evident in Münsterberg’s collaboration with the Paramount Pictures Corporation in 1916. In translating psychological tests into short experimental films, Münsterberg not only envisioned a new mass medium for the dissemination of psychotechnics, but a means by which to initiate the masses into the culture of experimental psychology.

Of Psychometric Means: Starke R. Hathaway and the Popularization of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory

Rebecca Schilling and Stephen T. Casper

The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) was developed at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, in the 1930s and 1940s. It became a highly successful and highly controversial psychometric tool. In professional terms, psychometric tools such as the MMPI transformed psychology and psychiatry. Psychometric instruments thus readily fit into the developmental history of psychology, psychiatry, and neurology; they were a significant part of the narrative of those fields’ advances in understanding, intervening, and treating people with mental illnesses. At the same time, the advent of such tools also fits into a history of those disciplines that records the rise of obsessional observational and evaluative techniques and technologies in order to facilitate patterns of social control that became typical during the Progressive Era in the United States and after. It was those patterns that also nurtured the resistance to psychometrics that emerged during the Vietnam War and after.

The Surgical Elimination of Violence? Conflicting Attitudes towards Technology and Science during the Psychosurgery Controversy of the 1970s

Brian P. Casey

In the 1970s a public controversy erupted over the proposed use of brain operations to curtail violent behavior. Civil libertarians, civil rights and community activists, leaders of the anti-psychiatry movement, and some U.S. Congressmen charged psychosurgeons and the National Institute of Mental Health, with furthering a political project: the suppression of dissent. Several government-sponsored investigations into psychosurgery rebutted this charge and led to an official qualified endorsement of the practice while calling attention to the need for more “scientific” understanding and better ethical safeguards. This paper argues that the psychosurgery debate of the 1970s was more than a power struggle between members of the public and the psychiatric establishment. The debate represented a clash between a postmodern skepticism about science and renewed focus on ultimate ends, on the one hand, and a modern faith in standards and procedures, a preoccupation with means, on the other. These diverging commitments made the dispute ultimately irresolvable.

Contending Professions: Sciences of the Brain and Mind in the United States, 1850–2013

Andrew Scull

This paper examines the intersecting histories of psychiatry and psychology (particularly in its clinical guise) in the United States from the second half of the nineteenth century to the present. It suggests that there have been three major shifts in the ideological and intellectual orientation of the “psy complex.” The first period sees the dominance of the asylum in the provision of mental health care, with psychology, once it emerges in the early twentieth century, remaining a small enterprise largely operating outside the clinical arena, save for the development of psychometric technology. It is followed, between 1945 and 1980, by the rise of psychoanalytic psychiatry and the emergence of clinical psychology. Finally, the re-emergence of biological psychiatry is closely associated with two major developments: an emphasis that emerges in the late 1970s on rendering the diagnosis of psychiatric illnesses mechanical and predictable; and the long-term effects of the psychopharmacological revolution that began in the early 1950s. This third period has seen a shift the orientation of mainstream psychiatry away from psychotherapy, the end of traditional mental hospitals, and a transformed environment within which clinical psychologists ply their trade.

Epilogue: The Redux of Postmodernity

Roderick D. Buchanan

The essays in this topical issue illustrate the changing cultural form and function of the biopsyche disciplines – disciplines that are both sciences and technologies of selfhood. To varying degrees, each essay actively engages Paul Forman’s thesis on modern and postmodern cultural valuations of science and technology. Forman invites those who read his work to view the cultural space framing science and technology in new ways (Forman 2007; idem 2010).

For more information, click here.

Call for Papers: “Does the History of Psychology Have a Future?”

The American Lightner Witmer, credited with coining the term "clinical psychology." From:

The American Lightner Witmer, credited with being one of the early developers of clinical psychology. From:




History of Psychology invites submissions for a special issue on the future of the history of psychology.

20 years ago, Kurt Danziger published an article with the provocative title, “Does the history of psychology have a future?” and it led to a great deal of comment and debate. The institutional position of the field does not seem to have improved in the meantime. The graduate program in history and theory of psychology at the University of New Hampshire was the only one of its kind in the USA and it was ended in 2009. Although the history of psychology is still widely taught at the undergraduate level, concerns have been expressed over a possible decline in the number of psychology departments offering the course. Professional historians have become increasingly prominent in the field. Could the subject eventually be handed over to them, as has already happened with the history of the physical sciences? Should this development be welcomed? There are many issues to be addressed.

We welcome contributions on any aspect of the subject. In order to get as many different perspectives as possible, we welcome contributions from authors in different disciplines (especially psychologists and historians), authors at different stages in their career (from graduate students to emeriti) and authors from different parts of the world. We are well aware that the current situation in the USA may not be representative of the situation elsewhere.

The submission deadline is July 15, 2015.

The main text of each manuscript, exclusive of figures, tables, references, or appendixes, should not exceed 35 double-spaced pages (approximately 7,500 words). Initial inquiries regarding the special issue may be sent to the regular editor, Nadine Weidman ( or the guest editor, Adrian Brock (

Papers should be submitted through the regular submission portal for History of Psychology ( with a cover letter indicating that the paper is to be considered for the special issue.

Documentary on Alfred Binet

Screenshot from 2014-10-11 17:40:25Philippe Tomine and Alexandre Klein have realised a documentary on Alfred Binet. A public presentation is organized October 15, 2014 at 5 pm in the amphitheater Lucien Cuénot at the Museum-Aquarium of Nancy (entry rue Godron) in the presence of the two authors. The film can also be visioned under this link.

Investigating the Fate of John Watson’s Famous Experimental Subject


The Chronicle of Higher Education features an article by Tom Barlett – “The Search for Psychology’s Lost Boy” – chronicling the efforts of scholars attempting to discover the fate of psychologist John Watson’s famous experimental subject “Little Albert.” Albert, you may recall, was the baby Watson attempted to condition to be afraid of furry things, and some psychologists have made it their mission to discover the identity and ultimate fate of the youngster in question.

(Note: You may need a subscription to view this article).

The Filedrawer Problem: A Resource

Something brought to our attention by the Cheiron Forum (Cheiron = The International society for the History of the Behavioral & Social Sciences) –

The Open Science Framework – an open collaboration of scientists “to increase the alignment between scientific values and scientific practices” – recently announced its “Reproducibility Project,” a collaboration intended to estimate the reproducibility of a sample of studies from the psychological sciences.  You can read about this project here.

A related resource which may interest h-madness readers is PsychFileDrawer, an archive of replication attempts in experimental psychology.  The site explains its archive and the famous “file drawer problem” this way:

The “file drawer problem” (a term coined in 1979 by Robert Rosenthal, a member of our Advisory Board) refers to the bias introduced into the scientific literature by selective publication–chiefly by a tendency to publish positive results but not to publish negative or nonconfirmatory results. Awareness and concern about the file drawer problem seem to be growing explosively at the current time (early 2012). The pages below provide a fairly comprehensive list of recent discussions of this problem organized into different categories of publications–ranging from popular articles about the extent of the problem in many fields, to technical articles asking how failures to reject the null hypothesis should be analyzed and presented.

Special issue of Transcultural Psychiatry: Religion and Mental Health

The last issue of Transcultural Psychiatry has been released online and is entirely devoted to the relationship between mental health and religion. Included in this issue is an article by Simon Dein (University College London) that focuses on christianisty and mental health in the light of the work of William James (1842-1910), the father of american psychology. It is entitled Judeo-Christian Religious Experience and Psychopathology: The Legacy of William James. The abstract reads:

This article examines the relationship between Judeo-Christian religious experience and psychopathology. It builds on William James’s Varieties of Religious Experience and more specifically his discussions of self, agency and the subliminal. Contemporary research on Christian conversion, mysticism, and its relationship to psychosis and mental health and healing are discussed. Future themes for research are proposed.

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