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.
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.
“The Beast Within”
This 15-minute podcast explores the human brain, including the infamous case of Phineas Gage, phrenology and Sigmund Freud. (I’ve written before about Gage and other men with brain injuries here and phrenology here.)
“Sigmund Freud, MD: Forgotten Contributions to Neurology, Neuropathology, and Anesthesia”
Many people may not know that Freud started out as a neurologist and strived to become a pioneer in neuroscience. In this 2004 article David Galbis-Reig, MD, discusses Freud’s significant contributions to the fields of neurology, neuropathology and anesthesia.
As Galbis-Reig writes, “In fact, many students and clinicians in the neurosciences are not even aware that Freud’s initial scientific work was instrumental in allowing for the major discoveries of his time.”
Also, this is another 15-minute podcast from the same series as above about “the part Freud almost played in the history of the brain.”
“A Week with the Boys”
In the 1950s social psychologists and spouses Muzafer Sherif and Carolyn Sherif conducted a well-known series of experiments to study group dynamics. Named the Robbers Cave Experiment, it studied the behavior of 22 11-year-old boys under the ruse of attending a summer camp.
In this article writer Gene Perry discusses the interesting ins and outs of this work along with compelling tidbits of the Sherifs’s personal and professional lives. For instance, Muzafer Sherif composed an outline for his social psychology book while in a Turkish prison for writing anti-Nazi books. Muzafer and Carolyn collaborated for 17 years on the same research, but Carolyn never received the same recognition: She was never given a faculty position.
Writer Algis Valiunas refers to Carl Jung as psychology’s magician and compares his work to Freud’s in this piece in The New Atlantis. According to Valiunas:
The method of [Jung’s] analytical psychology — as he called it, to distinguish it from Freudian psychoanalysis — was nothing short of fantastic. To penetrate the psyche of a woman destined for schizophrenic disintegration, he would study dreams, reveries, her “borderland phenomena” — the apparitions that came to her as she was half-asleep — and explicate them in the light of Mithraic religious symbols, Old Testament wisdom, the words of Jesus, passages from Shakespeare, poems by Nietzsche, Teutonic and Persian and Chinese and Indian legend. His path-breaking 1912 book Symbols of Transformation tracks the course of this woman’s treatment and introduces what would be Jung’s characteristic methods of interpretation. Although Jung focuses intently on a particular patient with a particular disorder, his study has a far more extensive cultural reach. He was out to dethrone arid modern scientism and restore the symbolic imagination — which is to say, religious feeling — to its rightful place in the life of men.
As Valiunas writes elsewhere in the piece:
Freud’s ideas were once taboo, then conventional wisdom, and now largely in disrepute. But since Freud’s approach still largely comports with our rationalist shibboleths, we have found a comfortable niche for him as a father of modern psychology. Jung remains a more inscrutable, potentially subversive figure: the self-avowed scientist who seemed to embrace all that science defined itself in opposition to — religion, mysticism, even parts of pseudoscience, but most significantly the depths of the human soul. In embracing the strangeness of the human psyche from within itself, he remains that father of psychology who still threatens to upend our view of ourselves.