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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Brain and Behavior

History of Psychology: Cards to Test Your ESP!

In 1870, British explorer Sir Richard Burton allegedly coined the term “extrasensory perception” or ESP. But it wasn’t until the 1930s that the term became popular thanks to Joseph Banks (J.B.) Rhine (1895-1980).

Rhine was actually a botanist who became interested in parapsychology after listening to a lecture from Scottish author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, according to an article in APA’s Monitor on Psychology by Nick Joyce and David B. Baker, Ph.D. Doyle declared that there was scientific evidence to prove that it was possible to talk to the dead.

Rhine wanted to validate parapsychology and began working with his wife Louisa and Professor William McDougall at Duke University in 1927. According to the Rhine Research Center, before Rhine, researchers mostly explored psychic phenomenon by working with mediums to see if an afterlife really existed.

Rhine, however, wanted to know first whether the living had ESP capabilities, so he focused on testing Duke University students instead.

What did he find out?

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Review of Jung vs. Freud in A Dangerous Method

A Dangerous Method, the new David Cronenberg movie -- based upon the 2002 Christopher Hampton stage play entitled, The Talking Cure, (which in turn was based on the 1993 non-fiction book by John Kerr, A Most Dangerous Method) -- is not only about the relationships you see on the screen between Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud and Sabina Spielrein, but a breathtaking metaphor for Freud's depiction of the mind.

A successful effort on a multitude of layers, the movie offers us a rollercoaster ride in a car filled with a motley group of historical characters in psychology and psychoanalysis. The movie depicts the life of Jung and Freud's relationship from the time they first met in 1907 until their professional relationship collapses in 1913 -- a short 6 years. I saw a screening of the movie earlier this month.

But it would be wrong to characterize this as a story only about Jung and Freud's relationship. Instead, it's a larger-than-life tale about the first days of psychoanalysis and Jung's career, set against the backdrop of pre-war Europe, artfully relayed on many different levels.

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5 Must-Reads About the History of Psychology

Every month I write several articles for this blog about the history of psychology. I do this in part because, in order to know where we’re going, we must know where we’ve been.

While researching my posts, I come across many fascinating articles about psychology. Here are five diverse pieces I think you’ll find especially interesting.

1. Checkout Time at the Asylum

Bellevue Hospital is the oldest public hospital in the U.S. and arguably the most notorious. Of course that’s largely because of its psychiatric wing. In this article, writer Mark Harris traces Bellevue’s beginnings along with its famous and infamous residents.

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A Dangerous Method Movie Starts Today

What happens when history collides at the intersection of psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung over a woman (who also happens to be Jung's patient)?

Find out today with the release of the new David Cronenberg (A History of Violence) flick, A Dangerous Method. It's opening in New York at The Sunshine and Lincoln Plaza and in LA at the Arclight Hollywood and The Landmark.

The movie centers around the relationship between Jung and Freud after the young Dr. Jung (Michael Fassbender) takes on a new Russian patient, Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley). But Jung and his more experienced teacher, Dr. Freud (Viggo Mortensen), both fall under the spell of Sabina, driving a wedge between the two men.
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The History of Nude Psychotherapy

It all started in 1933 with a paper by Howard Warren, a Princeton psychologist and president of the American Psychological Association, who spent a week at a German nudist camp a year earlier.

According to Ian Nicholson, Professor of Psychology at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, Warren’s article, “Social Nudism and the Body Taboo,” “was a qualitative and largely sympathetic consideration of the social and psychological significance of nudism.”

Warren “described nudism in therapeutic terms, highlighting the ‘easy camaraderie’ and lack of ‘self-consciousness’ in the nudist park, in addition to a ‘notable improvement in general health,'" along with the principal perspective to return to nature.

Soon after, other articles were published in psychology journals that highlighted the benefits of nudism in contributing to healthy, well-adjusted kids and adults.
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6 Facts About Transpersonal Psychology

I don't remember learning about transpersonal psychology in my clinical psych program. (With all that reading and lack of sleep, it's also possible I just missed that lesson.) So I was intrigued when I recently came across the term, and decided to do some digging.

In the Foreword of The Textbook of Transpersonal Psychiatry and Psychology, writer Ken Wilber defines “transpersonal” as “personal plus.” He explains that transpersonal work integrates both personal psychology and psychiatry but then “adds those deeper or higher aspects of human experience that transcend the ordinary and the average—experiences that are, in other words, ‘transpersonal’ or ‘more than personal,’ personal plus.”

It turns out that transpersonal psychology focuses on the spiritual. Bruce W. Scotton, M.D., one of the editors of the book, describes “spiritual” as “the realm of the human spirit, that part of humanity that is not limited to bodily experience.”

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An Open Letter to the DSM-5

As the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders continues to develop, there has been more and more reaction from professional groups with concerns. The most recent of these is an open letter that was sponsored by group of American Psychological Association divisions, and you can read it here: Open Letter to the DSM-5.

The biggest complaint here is that the DSM-5 development committee appears to have departed from the "atheoretical" approach that the past two version of have taken, in favor of a clear biomedical approach. The DSM-5 also seems to be changing the very definition of mental disorder by adding the criterion: '[A behavioral or psychological syndrome] that reflects an underlying psychobiological dysfunction.'

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Upcoming Movie: A Dangerous Method

What happens when history collides at the intersection of psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung?

Potentially, some pretty interesting fireworks. So that's why I'm especially looking forward to the new David Cronenberg (A History of Violence) flick, A Dangerous Method.

The movie centers around the relationship between Jung and Freud after the young Dr. Jung (Michael Fassbender) takes on a new Russian patient, Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley). But Jung and his more experienced teacher, Dr. Freud (Viggo Mortensen), both fall under the spell of Sabina, driving a wedge between the two men.

Based upon a true story, Spielrein was admitted in August 1904 to the Burghölzli mental hospital near Zürich, where Carl Gustav Jung worked at that time, according to Wikipedia. "While there, [Sabina] established a deep emotional relationship with Jung who later was her medical dissertation advisor. The historian and psychoanalyst Peter Loewenberg argues that this was a sexual relationship, in breach of professional ethics..."

Click through to learn more and view the trailer.

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Was Sybil Faking Multiple Personalities?

Multiple personality disorder -- now known in modern psychological lingo as dissociative identity disorder (DID) in the DSM-IV -- is a fairly uncommon mental health concern. But it remains an intriguing one because of its nature: The presence of two or more distinct identities or personality states. Each of these identities or personality states has its own relatively enduring pattern of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and self, and take alternating control of the person's behavior.

Sybil is one of the most popularly known individuals who had multiple personality disorder, largely because of a book published in the 1970s that detailed her experience and that of her psychiatrist in trying to help treat her.

Now Debbie Nathan, writing in her new book, Sybil Exposed, suggests that the core diagnosis for Sybil -- of multiple personality disorder -- was made up by the patient to keep in the good graces of her psychiatrist.

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Brain and Behavior

The Amazing Neuron: Facts about Neurons

Neurons are specific, unique kinds of cells in our bodies that carry information through electrical and chemical signals. Neurons are a core component of our nervous system, which includes both the brain and the spinal cord.

The neuron hypothesis was a major influence on modern neuropsychology.

The neuron hypothesis has three key aspects:

Neurons are discrete, autonomous cells that interact but are not physically connected.
They send electrical signals that have a chemical basis.
They communicate with one another by using chemical signals.

Want to learn more about the amazing neuron? Read on...

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History of Psychology: American Psychoanalyst A.A. Brill

About a month ago, I was reading the book The Sibling Effect: What Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us by Time senior editor and science writer Jeffrey Kluger. He included some interesting tidbits about singletons and how professionals viewed only children in the past.

Did you know that G. Stanley Hall, a psychologist, professor and the first president of the American Psychological Association, actually believed that “[B]eing an only child is a disease in itself”?

He wasn’t the only one. In his 1921 book Basic Principles of Psychoanalysis, psychiatrist Abraham Arden Brill wrote:

The only child is the morbid product of our present social economic system. He is usually an offspring of wealthy parents who, having been themselves brought up in luxury and anxious that their children should share their fate, refuse to have more than one or two children. By their abnormal love they not only unfit the child for life’s battle but prevent him from developing into normal manhood, thus producing sexual perverts and neurotics of all descriptions. It would be best for the individual as well as the race that there should be no only children.

After reading this quote, I became curious about the man who speculated that singletons essentially contaminated our race. (And, honestly, as an only child, I was a bit offended.)

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