Children and Teens

History of Psychology: How A Marshmallow Shaped Our Views of Self-Control

Imagine that you're 4 years old and that it's 1968.

You’re brought into a small room, a “game room,” with a table, chair and three sugary snacks. You’re asked to pick one treat. You choose the marshmallow. Then you’re told that you can either have the marshmallow right away by ringing a bell, or wait a few minutes and get two marshmallows. Then you’re left alone for 15 minutes.

This seemingly simple experiment conducted by Austrian-born clinical psychologist Walter Mischel at Stanford University became known as “The Marshmallow Study.” But don’t let the silly name fool you. This study tested over 600 kids at the Bing Nursery School and has become one of the longest-running studies in psychology.

What Mischel actually wanted to explore had zero to do with kids’ desire for sweets, of course. The lead investigator wanted to test the concept of delayed gratification.

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History of Psychology Round-Up: From The Wolf Man To Prozac

While researching the history of psychology, I come across a lot of interesting information. Every month I share five pieces, podcasts or videos that you might find fascinating, too.

Last month we talked about Alan Turing, Carl Jung and the famous Robbers Cave Experiment.

This month we've got quite the array of topics and in various mediums, including a podcast and a few videos. You’ll learn about the first sport psychologist, the infamous Wolf Man, the history of treating depression, mental asylums and a recent film featuring psychology's masterminds.

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History of Psychology Round-Up: From Alan Turing to Carl Jung

Every month I share five fascinating articles or podcasts I’ve recently come across while researching the history of psychology.

This month you’ll find everything from information about Alan Turing to Phineas Gage to Carl Jung to the infamous Robbers Cave Experiment.

Alan Turing

This year marks a century since Alan Turing’s birth. A mathematician and code-breaker, Turing also was the founder of computer science and artificial intelligence. Nature has a variety of articles and a podcast on everything from Turing’s famous 1936 paper to his other interests. Also, here’s another podcast that explores Turing’s tragic life and his incredible contributions.

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History of Psychology: Asylums for the Wealthy

Money may not buy you love. But in the 19th century, if you were well off, it could snag you a “home-away-from-home” private hospital. These rich-only places were a far cry from the overcrowded and filthy public asylums of the day, according to this article in March's issue of Monitor on Psychology.

The terrible conditions of public asylums that prompted physicians to open their homes to wealthy psychiatric patients. Rich patients could expect tranquil, scenic environments and -- for that time ­-- state-of-the-art treatments. Boris Sidis was one of the physicians who established a private hospital.

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History of Psychology Round-Up: From Psychoanalysis’s Birthplace to Britain’s Last Rites

Every month I share the most interesting articles I’ve come across while writing about the history of psychology.

This month, you'll find everything from the birthplace of psychoanalysis in America -- hint: it’s not New York City -- to the founder of cognitive psychology to an entire series on mental illness and last rites.

Let's get started...

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Brain and Behavior

History of Psychology: A New Twist in the Case of Little Albert

In 1920, behaviorist John Watson and his graduate student-turned-wife Rosalie Rayner conducted a conditioning experiment that everyone who’s ever taken an intro psychology course knows all too well: They taught 9-month-old Albert to fear a variety of stimuli that were seemingly innocuous to him from the start.

The most famous example involved a rat. When a rat was first placed alongside Little Albert, he appeared interested and unafraid. When the researchers paired the rat with a loud noise, over time, Albert got scared.

In fact, Albert would start crying at the mere sight of the rat, even though the noise was gone. It turned out that Albert's newfound fear also extended beyond the rat. He started fearing other furry objects.

Watson used this experiment to substantiate his theory that babies were blank states, and the environment was powerful in influencing them. This experiment was always considered controversial, and many psychologists were curious if Albert’s learned fears continued into adulthood. (That's because Watson and Rayner never deconditioned him.)

But no one knew Little Albert’s identify or his fate... until a few years ago.

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A Glimpse into Marriage Advice from the 1950s

As divorce rates in the U.S. were rising by the end of World War II, so were fears over the state of marriage and family life. Skyrocketing rates sent many couples to seek expert advice to bolster their marriages.

During this time, the idea that marriage could be saved -- and a divorce prevented -- with enough work gained ground, according to Kristin Celello, assistant professor of history at Queens College, City University of New York, in her fascinating book Making Marriage Work: A History of Marriage and Divorce in the Twentieth-Century United States. A slew of experts stepped in to help American couples strengthen their unions -- and with some interesting suggestions.

These experts, however, weren’t necessarily trained therapists or even anyone who had anything to do with psychology. Take marriage expert Paul Popenoe, for example. He was incredibly well-known and established one of America’s first marriage counseling centers in the 1930s, made regular media appearances and contributed to Ladies Home Journal -- and he was a horticulturalist.

The marriage prescriptions of the 1950s could be summed up in one sentence: It was mainly a woman’s job to foster a happy marriage and steer it away from divorce.

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Carl Jung’s Five Key Elements to Happiness

I love reading Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist credited with being the developer of analytical psychology.

I especially enjoy his book Memories, Dreams, Reflections. His work is very challenging, however, so to get my Jung fix, I also read a bunch of interviews that he gave that were printed in the collection C.G. Jung Speaking. They are a fascinating read.

In 1960, journalist Gordon Young asked Jung, "What do you consider to be more or less basic factors making for happiness in the human mind?"

Jung answered with the five following elements...

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History of Psychology Roundup: From Maslow’s Bio to James’s Letters

Every month I feature some of the most interesting pieces I’ve come across about the history of psychology. (For instance, check out this post and this post.)

This month there’s everything from a thorough biography of America’s most important psychologist to a slideshow about one neurologist’s use of photographs to substantiate lobotomy’s success. Hope you find them fascinating!

1. “Abraham Maslow and the All-American Self”

In this detailed piece in The New Atlantis, writer and contributing editor Algis Valiunas discusses essentially anything and everything you’d want to know about Abraham Maslow. Maslow was one of the founders of humanistic psychology and is best known for creating Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Valiunas describes Maslow as “the most important American psychologist since William James, and perhaps the most important psychologist altogether since Carl Jung.” In the article, he reveals bits of Maslow’s difficult childhood, roundabout education and influences and provides an in-depth discussion of his research and philosophies.

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Brain and Behavior

Back to Basics: 4 (Free) Online Psychology Courses

I live in a college town.

In fact, I live in the college town in which I used to attend college.

I moved back here a few months ago and I pass my (er, the college's) library daily. It brings back plenty of academic memories -- and, surprisingly, they're not the stressful ones. In the six years that have passed since my graduation, the memories of stress and panic and due dates and overwhelming projects has faded.

But the positive stuff remains: the nights spent in a library study nook with my Intro to Communication textbook and a highlighter. (I loved that class.)

The satisfaction of applying a concept I learned in my 9 a.m. Intro to Logic class to my 2 p.m. Composition class. (I could point out all the major logical fallacies in our assigned reading.)

The scent of the pages of a brand-new textbook. (Am I the only one who thinks that new books sort of smell like cucumbers on the inside?)

I hit the peak of wistful sentimentality last week and found a way to re-create a portion of the academic college experience (without the stress!): watching actual college lectures on Academic Earth.

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History of Psychology: Karl Kahlbaum

You may not be as familiar with Karl Kahlbaum as you are with Emil Kraepelin, one of the most pivotal psychiatrists of his time who developed the modern classification of mental disorders.

But Kahlbaum paved the way for Kraepelin's renowned work and also made some remarkable contributions of his own. In fact, Kahlbaum’s ideas --- along with his assistant Ewald Hecker --- influenced Kraepelin’s two major concepts: manic depression and dementia praecox (what we today call schizophrenia).

According to Richard Noll, associate professor of psychology at DeSales University, in his book American Madness: The Rise and Fall of Dementia Praecox, “What he produced would eventually revolutionize psychiatry once Kraepelin applied Kahlbaum’s concepts in Heidelberg [where Kraepelin lived and worked].”

Like Kraepelin, Kahlbaum was a German psychiatrist. Born in 1828 in Eastern Germany, Kahlbaum studied medicine at several universities: Königsberg, Würzburg and Leipzig. (He passed away in 1899.) After receiving his medical degree, working at a psychiatric clinic and teaching classes at Königsberg University, Kahlbaum began working at a private psychiatric hospital. He bought the hospital in 1867 and renamed the facility after himself (it was named for the previous owner).

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5 Must-Reads on the History of Psychology

Last month I shared with you four must-read pieces (and a podcast), which included the history of Bellevue Hospital’s psychiatric wing, the surgical procedure known as the lobotomy, the first child diagnosed with autism and the often-neglected group of female psychologists.

This month, I’m sharing five more fascinating links that delve into the history of psychology.

1. Psychology instruments.

This link from the University of Toronto’s Department of Psychology discusses the various instruments psychologists employed in their labs. (And there are photos, of course!)

There’s everything from an apparatus that was used to detect color blindness to a German-made “spectroscope” that tested threshold determinations to the “ergograph,” which examined muscle contraction, strength, fatigue and endurance.

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