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Posts Tagged ‘history of psychology’

contributed by Lizette Royer Barton.

While working in the Walter and Catharine Cox Miles papers recently I came across a string of correspondence from 1928 between Walter Miles and Margaret Floy Washburn in which they reference a “motion picture film taken at Carlisle.”

I’ve always known this film as the “Titchener Film” due to the first two minutes taken at the 1927 meeting of the Experimentalists but there are 11 minutes of footage post Titchener and it’s really good stuff.

This blog was supposed to be a fluff piece for Women’s History Month to show Margaret Floy Washburn on film. But instead, and you know this is coming if you’ve read any of my contributions to this blog, I went down the rabbit hole….

I Googled, experimental psychology + Carlisle and the second hit was a 2010 History of Psychology journal article by my friend Jim Goodwin titled, “The 1928 Carlisle conference: Knight Dunlap and a national laboratory for psychology.”

And a bonus – on page 379 he appears to reference the film in question, “…a brief film, with most scenes featuring Margaret Washburn walking around the Dickinson College campus in the company of various clusters of male attendees.” 

I watched the film and noticed this.

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Walter & Catharine Cox Miles papers, Film 5-5

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Walter & Catharine Cox Miles papers, Film 5-5

Johnson…Johnson…that name was familiar….

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“I consider it [the film] very flattering, except for the indoor view of Miss Johnson and myself, and there it is comforting to observe that the beautiful and comparatively youthful Miss Johnson also suffers from the poor illumination.”  Walter & Catherine Cox Miles papers, M1121, folder 13

Due to the context of the times and the fact that Goodwin wrote that of the 32 attendees Washburn was, “...the only woman invited to the Carlisle meeting….” I assumed the woman in the still frame above was a Mrs. Buford Johnson – the wife of a man named Buford Johnson who joined him at the conference. I went back to Goodwin’s article and the footnote on page 388 includes Buford Johnson as a conference attendee. But in the letter above Margaret Floy Washburn refers to a MISS Johnson not a MRS. Johnson.

I pulled the 1928 APA Directory (the year of the Carlisle Conference) from our reference library and found Buford J. Johnson listed as an APA member. Johnson was at Johns Hopkins (as was Knight Dunlap – organizer of the Carlisle Conference) and experimental psychology was listed as an interest which would make sense for a psychologist attending a conference centered around the creation of a National Laboratory of Experimental Psychology.

But then I noticed Johnson was a graduate of LaGrange College.

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Wait a minute? Wasn’t LaGrange a women’s college? Wikipedia confirmed my suspicions. LaGrange was a women’s college until  1934 and Johnson earned an A.B. in 1895.

A quick google search of “Buford Johnson” + LaGrange and I was rewarded with a fantastic blog by two LaGrange College librarians titled, “Interesting Alumni: LC’s Extraordinary Women of the Past.”

Extraordinary WOMEN of the past? Was Buford J. Johnson a woman?!

I went back to the APA directories and started leafing through all of them until I hit pay dirt in 1948.

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It turns out Dr. Buford Jeannette Johnson earned her PhD at Hopkins in 1916 and in 1924 became the first woman to be appointed professor of psychology in the department. She was also the founding editor of the journal Child Development and the first woman to be elected president of the Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology.

I did a search across our collections for Buford Jeannette Johnson and besides the film and letter in which she is mentioned in the Miles papers there was only one other hit – a postcard from 1929 from Johnson to Sarah Dunlap (Knight Dunlap’s daughter) in the Knight Dunlap papers.

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“I am…going to a reception tonight… for the International Congress of LIBRARIANS.”  International Congress of Librarians? Oh my goodness! Buford Johnson is too good to be true! Knight Dunlap papers, M569, folder “Postcards”

Buford Jeannette Johnson died in 1954 at the age of 74. Her death certificate, located by my genealogical-research savvy colleague Dr. Jodi Kearns, indicates Johnson died of acute nephritis with antecedent causes of cerebral arteriosclerosis and “nervous breakdown from excessive study.”

Reading her death certificate broke my heart a little bit. Realizing Dr. Buford Jeannette Johnson is darn near invisible in the history of psychology broke my heart a lot.

What are Buford Jeannette Johnson and Margaret Floy Washburn talking about in this film? Did their laughter stem from the gallows humor almost certainly necessary for  women in the field of experimental psychology in the 1920s? Or maybe it was lighter than that. Maybe they were just friends. Or simply colleagues.

In any case, here are two incredibly talented and bright psychologists sharing a laugh.

 

 

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-Contributed by Rhonda Rinehart.

If there’s one person who had many, many opportunities to be stressed out – and pretty much all the time – it was Charles D. Spielberger.  By the standards of some of his own assessments developed to measure stress, he was in the thick of it.  His professional life was demanding.  He traveled the world.  He was a leader on numerous projects and research endeavors – often simultaneously.  He held high office within his profession.  People constantly hounded him for professional references and research assistance.  He was evaluated by his peers, and also by supervisors and officials.  He planned international conferences.  He edited professional journals.  He made – and retained – professional relationships with VIPs in the biz.

Sample questions from the Job Stress Survey (JSS) developed by Spielberger and P. R. Vagg, 1999
Charles D. Spielberger papers, Boxes M6050-M6062, Cummings Center for the History of Psychology.

 

These are only a few random samples out of 30 questions.  After spending the better part of the last three years sorting and organizing the vast collection of materials that comprise the life of Charles D. Spielberger, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that he experienced any number of the above situations on a regular basis.

And just how well did he respond to these potential stressors?  I suppose we can never know exactly how Spielberger felt inside at any given moment, but after getting to know him a bit through organizing his life in professional papers, I have two separate impressions of how Spielberger possibly handled his own stress.  1.)  It would be quite difficult to accomplish all that he accomplished through a career spanning six decades if he did not handle stress well.  2.)  On the other hand, his long incursion into stress was insightful and somewhat sympathetic to the ever-present afflictions of anxiety, nervousness, tension and worry attributed to stress that affect so many lives.  It seems difficult to spend so much time on a topic of research and develop such acclaimed assessments about stress if he didn’t perhaps feel the nagging results of it from time to time.

We all process and react to stress differently depending on a number of factors.  And this can make a big difference when it comes to how we live our lives.  For Spielberger, stress was apparently not debilitating, though he knew full well it could be for some.  I would contend that Spielberger may have even enjoyed some of the byproducts of stress – endorphin rush, pushing himself to do better and do more.

Promotional button for STRESSCARE Systems, Inc., Charles D. Spielberger papers, Box M6034, Cummings Center for the History of Psychology.

 

As a member of the National Scientific Advisory Council for STRESSCARE Systems during 1985-1988, Spielberger lent his growing expertise on stress to this, and many other, workshops that gave people tools to understanding their own personal stressors and how to live with them, if not completely eliminate them.

An early assessment test developed by Spielberger, the foundation for which many other assessment tools were built upon, lists and aggregates feelings associated with stress and anxiety.  Many adaptations of the STAI (below) were developed for children, personalities, countries, vocations, and other situations.  Some of Spielberger’s most interesting and currently relevant work was done in the area of police stress and subsequent selection of police officers.

Sample questions from early edition of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) developed by Spielberger, R. L. Gorsuch and R. Lushene, 1968; Charles D. Spielberger papers, Boxes M6094-M6102, Cummings Center for the History of Psychology.

 

Lest you think stress was all Spielberger was about, think again.  His infinite curiosity and tireless industriousness made him open to all sorts of life experiences, including retiring from the U.S. Naval Reserve with the rank of Commander – and meeting with Carl Sagan.

Charles Spielberger (3rd row, 3rd from right), Commissioned Officers Training Course, Ninth Session, 1955; Charles D. Spielberger papers, Box M5875, Cummings Center for the History of Psychology.

 

 

Spielberger, as the University of South Florida Distinguished Research Professor, congratulating Carl Sagan, first recipient of the Carl Sagan Award for Public Appreciation of Science, 1993; Charles D. Spielberger papers, Box M5870, Cummings Center for the History of Psychology.

 

Spielberger served as the 1991-1992 APA president.  This professional watermark is a culmination of a professional life steeped in research, contributions to the field, making connections and forging friendships.  All rewarding, but certainly stressful as well.

 

Endorsement letter for Charles Spielberger as APA President, Charles D. Spielberger papers, Box M6215, Cummings Center for the History of Psychology.

 

 

Congratulatory letter to Charles Spielberger from director of The Israeli Institute for Military Studies, 1989; Charles D. Spielberger papers, Box M5619, Cummings Center for the History of Psychology.

 

Others continue to build upon Spielberger’s legacy by using his research and adapting his tests globally to further our understanding of stress and its effects on our lives.  Something that Charles Spielberger noticed as a human commonality.

See what more you can discover about Charles Spielberger – and possibly yourself – by delving into the Charles D. Spielberger papers, now open for research at the Cummings Center.

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contributed by Lizette R. Barton.

Like countless others I considered Dr. Joseph White a mentor and a friend and I was heartbroken to learn of his sudden passing in November. Joe White changed my life. He truly, honestly changed the course of my life and I will be forever grateful to him. I know that many of us have Joe White stories – stories of friendship, mentorship, inspiration, and education. I’d like to take this opportunity to share mine.

In 2003 I was a third year undergraduate psychology major at The University of Akron and I was enrolled in the History of Psychology course. David Baker, now my colleague but at the time just my professor for the course, invited Joe White to speak to our class.

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Joe White addressing Dave Baker’s History of Psychology class in 2007

He was insightful and his lecture was thought provoking. I think we can all agree that he was an incredible public speaker who could totally command an audience. At one point in his talk he mentioned the book Even the Rat was White by Robert Guthrie. I headed to the library directly after class and got that book and read it that night. I know this sounds totally cliche but as a white girl who grew up in a very rural, very white community Joe’s lecture and that book were a watershed moment. I quickly learned there is no “the history” but rather “a history” and oftentimes people are silenced and omitted from “the” history so many of us learn about in school.

Dr. Baker encouraged me to contact Dr. White and we quickly struck up a friendship. He wrote me letters of recommendation for graduate school and when I didn’t get in and was heartbroken he helped me reevaluate and realize that I had a real passion for history and archives so maybe not getting into a psychology graduate program wasn’t the worst thing on earth.

As a student assistant in the archives, and later a part-time staff member, I was assigned to process the Robert V. Guthrie manuscript papers and Joe offered to help fund my travel to Hollywood, CA in 2005 in order to see Dr. Guthrie recognized as an elder at the National Multicultural Conference and Summit. My favorite memory from the trip was sharing Manhattans and laughs seated between Dr. Guthrie and Dr. White at the hotel bar. They were impressed I could hold my alcohol “for a country girl” and I wore that as a badge of honor.

We stayed in touch for years and  would make a point to get together for drinks or dinner during his many trips to Akron for UA’s annual Black Male Summit.

By 2007 I was a full-time staff member at the Cummings Center. I decided to take advantage of the opportunity for free UA classes and enrolled in Dr. Zach Williams’ History of Hip Hop class. The topic of the “generational gap” came up again and again in course lectures and readings and when it came time to complete a final project I knew I had to talk to Joe.

The following audio clip was part of my final project for the class. I recorded my interview with Joe and then put some of his words to music. It’s “not safe for work” in that it contains explicit language but Joe’s words are powerful and I am just as inspired by them now as I was then.

Rest easy, Joe. And keep the faith.

 

 

 

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Contributed by Justin Veda, Megan Oswald, Ryan Robinson, and Anthony Pankuch.

At the crossroads of confident and creative lies Bernard Saper. A man so bold he sent his writing to the likes of Oprah Winfrey and attempted to cast such A-list actors as Robin Williams in his potential movies. He would do all of this in the pursuit of understanding the effects of humor on the human mind. There are few others like him; he is truly one of a kind in the world of psychology. The Bernard Saper papers are now available to researchers.

Bernard Saper obituary (Box M6308, Folder 4)

 

Bernard Saper was born December 16, 1920 in Brooklyn, New York. He earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Brooklyn College in 1946. He received his master’s degree from Columbia University and a doctoral degree in clinical psychology from the University of California in 1952. Saper became director of psychological services at the New York State Department of Mental Hygiene in 1958, and in 1965 he was appointed director of the Bureau of Functional Programming, where he advised architects on the design of facilities. In 1967, he began work as a faculty member of the Albany Medical College, and two years later became professor of psychology and director of the Institute for Psychological Applications at the University of Maine. He would go on to become professor of psychology at Florida International University. He was a founding member of the South Florida School of Professional Psychology.

Two awards for outstanding contribution and appreciation dedicating Saper’s service and development of psychology. (Box M6308, Folder 1, 7)

There are many wonders and hidden gems to be discovered in the 11 boxes that contain the Bernard Saper papers. See notes and research compiled by Bernard Saper in his research surrounding the psychology of humor in the Research Files series. Look through the Academic Files series to see the very notes he used in teaching his lectures to the next generation of psychologists in his various teaching roles. And, read through original rough drafts of his book Conditional Triumph along with never-before-seen books and teleplays waiting to be read within the Written Works series. Please note some files are restricted.

Summary of unproduced teleplay of “Surrogate” by Bernard Saper (Box M6306, Folder 1)

The processing of this archival collection fulfilled requirements for students enrolled in the course Foundations of Museums and Archives I and was generously sponsored by the EX[L] Center at The University of Akron.

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-contributed by Rhonda Rinehart.

When “Psychic Killer” was released in 1975, there wasn’t much on the surface to set it apart from other horror movies of the same ilk.  There was violence.  There was gore.  There was sex.  There were victims.  “He freed his mind and body to commit the most sensual and shocking acts imaginable!” promised the movie poster.

Such claims probably don’t mean all that much in the 40-something rearview mirror of Leatherface and Michael Myers but one thing did set “Psychic Killer” apart from other movies and that was The Kirlian Effect.  Based on a 1939 concept developed by Russian inventor Semyon Kirlian that all living things project an energy field, and these energy fields can be photographed, The Kirlian Effect received some attention; at best as a sort of pseudo-psychology and at worst as a complete myth.  The technique developed to capture these energy fields came to be known as Corona Discharge Photography, so named for the electrical discharge brought about by connecting an object to both a photographic plate and a high-voltage electrical source, and snapping a picture of the resulting electro-discharge.  And so Kirlian Photography, as it is also known, was born – and “Psychic Killer” was created in its wake.

Though the movie didn’t quite get it right – turns out the protagonist was astral projecting (a story for another blog) rather than discharging any coronal impulses – Kirlian Photography was indeed the muse for the film’s screenwriter and producer, Mardi Rustam, and, surprisingly, for a handful of psychologists in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

One of those psychologists, Willard Caldwell, was hanging out in a cute little cottage named Kipling Arms, tinkering with his own coronal discharge equipment around the same time that Rustam was conceiving his psychic killer.  While photographing electromagnetic discharges or “auras” of everything from lizards and grasshoppers to vials of his own blood, Caldwell wasn’t just playing a 1970s version of Dr. Frankenstein.

Vial of Willard Caldwell blood.

Willard Caldwell’s left and right frontal lobes.

Willard Caldwell’s hands.

Rather, Caldwell was developing techniques that would come to focus on the effects of magnetic fields upon behavior, schizophrenia, and neuropsychology.  Caldwell worked to incorporate the neuroscience of brain damage and schizophrenia through the use of Kirlian photography into a more serious application, though he did take time to further develop Kirlian photographic techniques for other living things.

Coronal discharge from a grasshopper.

Caldwell’s notes on handling the grasshopper during photography

Biting grasshoppers aside, the applications of Caldwell’s techniques were reported by him in numerous research papers on topics as diverse as cancer and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  Though mostly unpublished, Caldwell’s prolific research did get some academic attention, but Kirlian photography remains an outlier in health and psychological research.

But perhaps Kirlian, Caldwell and Rustam were on to something.  The brain, as we know, is a powerful tool.  It stands to reason that we would want to know more about how it works and how it relates to our being.  How we get there is up to us.  We can make movies or we can do research.  Either way, the result is only part of the journey.

Sketch of Kirlian photographic techniques, by Caldwell.

 

The Willard Caldwell papers are located at the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology at the University of Akron.  View the collection finding aid here: http://rave.ohiolink.edu/archives/ead/OhAkAHA0036.

Photographic equipment Caldwell used in his experimentation is also located at the Cummings Center: http://cdm15960.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15960coll7/id/1713/rec/1

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Contributed by Lizette R. Barton with plenty of media help from Jon Endres.

 

September is National Chicken Month.

Sure, it’s just a month co-opted by the chicken industry to get us all to go out and eat chicken but for me it is more than that. Chickens need a month to be celebrated – and not just for their delicious eggs, wings, breasts, legs, and thighs. And livers.

But also for their behavior, their ability to learn, their place in history of psychology and their general coolness.

Without further ado – chickens in the history psychology.

Eckhard Hess (1916-1986) worked with chickens. He used chickens as his subjects in his imprinting and visual perception research. I could watch those chicks in tiny helmets all day.

 

Richard Walk (1920-1999) and Eleanor Gibson (1910-2002) had a variety of animals and babies walk and crawl – or in this case strut – across the visual cliff.

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Richard D. Walk still images collection

 

Cora Friedline’s (1893-1975) Philosophy 13 class assignment,”The Mind of the Chicken,” is a staff favorite. The image below is just one page taken from her 20+ page report.

To quote Friedline, “It is my belief that we learn more by doing than by depending entirely upon books for our knowledge. Accordingly, when I selected the chicken as my subject, I decided I must have one. It was brought to me on Thanksgiving night, and proved to be a Plymouth Rock…whom I called Birdie….there was not a happier person in all of Lincoln than I was that night.”

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Cora L. Friedline papers, M259, folder 1

 

My search for “chicken” then led me to the William S. Verplanck  papers. Paul Mountjoy (1925-2001) asked to know more about “the chicken book” and Verplanck (1916-2002) obliged.

Hey! I know that book! Smith & Daniels “The Chicken Book” was one of the first books I picked up from the library when we decided to start raising chickens.

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William S. Verplanck papers, M1959, folder 9

 

Keller Breland, Marian Breland Bailey, Bob Bailey and their team worked with a variety of animals throughout the course of their careers at Animal Behavior Enterprises. They developed training techniques based on the psychological principles of positive reinforcement which have become the gold standard in animal training.

 

And they did some incredible work with chickens.

 

And finally, quite simply, chickens make really good friends.

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Lizette’s two-year-old son sharing snacks with a friend.

 

 

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-contributed by Cathy Faye.

Humor me, here, with a little Thursday quiz:  what do a Nobel Prize, Wonder Woman, and hand guns all have in common? If you guessed “psychology,” you win! Alas, I probably should have tried harder not to give away the answer in the blog title.

Another thing they have in common: they will be featured in the exhibits at the National Museum of Psychology, opening in Akron in 2018!

The new National Museum of Psychology will take up the entire first floor of the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology.

The Museum is almost fully designed. We will soon begin fabrication of exhibits!

I’m super excited about this museum. But, when I tell my friends and family about it, they all give me this same puzzled look: what on earth is in a psychology museum?? They generally seem to think that the idea of such a museum is strange, that the history of psychology is not very interesting, or that they won’t really understand the stories inside such a museum.

Here’s the thing, though: psychology is EVERYWHERE. The achievement and intelligence tests you took in college, the way you discipline your children, the design of your cell phone keypad, the things your dog learns at obedience class. Yup, psychological ideas, research, and practice went into all of those things.

 

 

In the 1950s, psychologist Alphonse Chapanis researched telephone keypads used by telephone operators. Operators made the least errors entering numbers when numbers on the keypad were arranged in a 3 by 3 display. This finding influenced the design of the telephone keypads we use today.

 

Group testing of intelligence took off in the United States after World War I, when “psychological examiners” created and administered intelligence tests to more than 1 million recruits.

Psychologists Keller Breland and Marian Breland Bailey and biologist Robert Bailey used psychological principles of learning and behavior to train animals in the 1950s. Their work is still used in animal training today.

But psychology’s history goes beyond cell phones and dog tricks; it is fully embedded in our social worlds and our identities. Psychological research was part of the landmark Supreme Court decision that ended legal racial segregation in the US in 1954. It was a producer and product of women’s equality as early as the 1900s. And psychological research helped to change perceptions of homosexuality in the 1970s.  For more than a century, psychologists have been exploring the human experience and their work has ultimately changed our lived experiences.

Psychologist and feminist Leta Hollingworth published research that supported women’s equality in the early 1900s.

 

Psychologist Mamie Phipps Clark testifying in the Brown v. Board of Education case that made racial segregation in schools unconstitutional. 

The National Museum of Psychology tells this story. It tells the story of psychology’s history, which is essentially a story of all these ideas and practices—both big and small—that have shaped and continue to shape our everyday lives. You engage with psychology everywhere, every day, often without realizing it.

So, when my friends and family ask me, “what on earth is in a psychology museum?” I tell them all of this.  They are patient people!

My mom and my aunt, visiting me at work to finally figure out what on earth is in a psychology museum.

So, a follow-up quiz. How are the Nobel Prize, Wonder Woman, and hand guns all linked to psychology? Some of you with a penchant for history may already know. If so, share your knowledge in the comments! As for the rest of you, you’ll just have to visit the National Museum of Psychology to find out! Stay tuned to our facebook page to find out when we’ll be ready to open the doors.

(Shameless plug: we sure could use your help raising the remainder of the funds to support fabrication and installation of the exhibits. Donations of all sizes are very, very, very welcome here. It’ll be worth it; I promise!)

 

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