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The History of Psychology Roundup: From LSD to Lobotomies


It’s been a while — like a few years! — since I’ve shared the latest links on the history of psychology. But I think it’s important to take a look back. In order to know where we’re going, it’s important to know where we’ve been. Plus, the journey is rarely boring.

This month’s pieces cover everything from playing tourist at asylums to using LSD to treat alcoholism to reading letters from lobotomy patients.

“Silenced Voices”

In this piece in APA’s Monitor on Psychology , psychologists Victor A. Colotia, Ph.D, and Samuel Jurado, Ph.D, highlight David Pablo Boder and his powerful work.

Boder was a Russian-born psychologist who conducted the first oral history of the Holocaust. Sadly, his work largely went unnoticed then and still does today, because much of it remains unpublished.


In this cool interactive website called Mindcraft, you can explore “a century of madness, murder and mental healing.”

You’ll learn the history of Franz Anton Mesmer’s theory of “animal magnetism,” and the techniques he and others used to cure people of everything from toothaches to paralysis.

The site also explores the power of hypnosis. It includes a murder case, where one woman used being hypnotized as her defense. Finally, there are insights into Freud’s use of hypnosis and his famous patient Anna O.

Mindcraft includes videos, diary entries and peeks into Freud’s office (and his infamous couch).

You also can learn more about Mesmer in this Psych Central piece.

“Asylum Tourism”

If you were a tourist in 19th century New York, in addition to monuments, churches and historical sites, your guidebook would include tidbits about visiting an asylum. This is another piece from Monitor on Psychology.

In it, authors Jennifer L. Bazar, Ph.D, and Jeremy T. Burman, M.A., chronicle the shift in asylum tourism. It went from gawking at the “insane” (who were referred to as “beasts”) to admiring the architecture and grounds of asylums.

“A Brief History of Psychedelic Psychiatry”

“On 5 May 1953 the novelist Aldous Huxley dissolved four-tenths of a gram of mescaline in a glass of water, drank it, then sat back and waited for the drug to take effect. Huxley consumed the drug in his California home under the direct supervision of psychiatrist Humphry Osmond, to whom Huxley had volunteered himself as a willing and eager guinea pig.”

This is the beginning of Moheb Costandi’s piece about LSD therapy, which was apparently seen as the next big thing in psychiatry in the 1950s and early 1960s. In this article Costandi explores the two types of LSD therapy along with research into its therapeutic benefits.


If you’ve ever taken an introductory psychology course, you’re no doubt familiar with Ivan Pavlov. He’s the Russian physiologist who experimented on dogs and discovered classical conditioning. Behaviorism founder B.F. Skinner used Pavlov’s discovery as the foundation of behaviorism: Human behavior could be reduced solely to events that we can observe and quantify.

According to Michael Specter in this piece in The New Yorker, because of bad translations, we’ve gotten a few things wrong. He clarifies Pavlov’s work and delves into his life. He also reviews Pavlov’s exhaustive biography, Ivan Pavlov: A Russian Life in Science, by Daniel P. Todes.

“Interpreting Lobotomy — the Patient’s Stories”

In the 20th century, lobotomies were a legitimate way to treat everything from mental illness to chronic pain. (I wrote about it here.) Today, lobotomy is viewed as a black cloud over the history of psychiatry.

Walter Freeman, who pioneered the lobotomy in the U.S., was known for being a showman. He once performed 25 lobotomies in one day. There are horror stories about lobotomies.

However, this piece provides a different perspective. Physician and historian Mical Raz combed through correspondence between Freeman and his patients (and families) to argue that they shared similar views about both the goals and results of lobotomy.

“Psychology to Win the War and Make A Better Peace”

In this piece psychology professor Ben Harris talks about a little known book that was published in 1943 and sold nearly 400,000 copies. The book Psychology for the Fighting Man featured chapters such as “Morale,” “Food and sex as military problems,” and “Sight as a weapon.”

It also explores the goals of the text’s co-editor, psychologist E.G. Boring. Boring wanted psychology to become part of American culture. And, today, no doubt, he’d be happy to know that it certainly has.

The History of Psychology Roundup: From LSD to Lobotomies

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. is an Associate Editor and regular contributor at Psych Central. Her Master's degree is in clinical psychology from Texas A&M University. In addition to writing about mental disorders, she blogs regularly about body and self-image issues on her Psych Central blog, Weightless.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2018). The History of Psychology Roundup: From LSD to Lobotomies. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 2 Mar 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.