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Posts Tagged ‘popular psychology’

Contributed by Rhonda Rinehart.

Chances are if you had a question, Little Blue Books had an answer.  Actually, many answers.  On any topic.  For everyone, everywhere.  Little Blue Books were your local library.  They were the 1920s version of Wikipedia.  And they kept the post office in business.  At 5-10 cents a pop, Little Blue Books weren’t free but they were cheap, and they could be shipped to any address in the world for nothing.  Always 3 ½” x 5 ½”, these tiny tomes of paper and staples were easily transportable, whether you were delivering them or reading them.

Emanuel Haldeman-Julius hoped to find a place, even if a small one, in the annals of literary history.  More specifically (and more colorfully), he said this:

At the close of the 20th Century some flea-bitten,

sun-bleached, fly-specked, rat-gnawed,

dandruff- sprinkled professor of literature

is going to write a five-volume history of the books

of our century. In it a chapter will be devoted to

publishers and editors of books, and in that chapter

perhaps a footnote will be given to me.

With apologies to professors of literature, Haldeman-Julius did indeed carve out a place of his own among the publishing world.  What was once an earnest (and successful) endeavor to provide affordable and accessible reading to the entire world population (for real!) has now become a collector’s delight.

Early advertisement for Little Blue Books

 

In the areas of psychology, psychiatry and self-help, Little Blue Books offered a surprisingly large selection of titles that ranged from topics like autosuggestion to testing to animal behavior.  Fairly cutting-edge stuff for the general public of the early 20th century.

Some of the Little Blue Books on psychoanalysis, a gift of Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr.

 

The small collection of 34 Little Blue Books donated to the Center by Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr., contains several titles on psychoanalysis in the ever-popular “know thyself” format.  Courtesy of the Haldeman-Julius publishing company, you can learn how to psychoanalyze yourself, and you can read along as a popular author psychoanalyzes himself and the entire United States.

Psychoanalyzing yourself

Psychoanalyzing yourself

 

But what’s even more fun than psychoanalyzing yourself (at least for this archivist) is making a connection from something as broad and far-reaching as the nearly two thousand Little Blue Books titles to something very specific located right here in the archives at the Cummings Center.

New Experiments in Animal Psychology (Little Blue Book No. 693) features work from all the well-worn and heavy-hitting names of those early pioneers of animal psychology – Thorndike, Yerkes, Watson, Witmer – and then suddenly hits the reader with an illustration on page 19 (something quite rare in Little Blue Books) – a depiction of Ivan Pavlov’s famed drooling dog experiment, demonstrating classical conditioning.

Illustration in Little Blue Book No. 693 of  Pavlov’s Conditioned Reflex Apparatus monitoring animal responses to stimuli

 

Now comes the good part.  The Center’s collection of objects and artifacts has a very small replica of the set-up that Pavlov used in his experiments to measure a dog’s salivary response to certain stimuli like food or later, the sound of a metronome or a buzzer.  Like a miniature laboratory, this cute and portable likeness of the real thing was used for teaching about those conditioned responses without the mess of a drooling dog in the classroom.

Simulated chamber with dog model used to simulate conditioning experiments

 

And that’s what is so fun about working, studying, and researching here at the Center.  There are those moments that happen when a connection is made and you light up and say, “Yes!  I’ve seen that before” or “This was on TV last night!”  Even if you don’t have a background in psychology (I’m raising my hand here), there are so many objects, so much media, and mountains of written and published works that relate to everyday life to be found at the Center – you will not only be able to psychoanalyze yourself, you’ll be able to recognize the science behind a drooling dog.

Search the finding aid for more information.  Please contact us to view these Little Blue Books.

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– contributed by guest blogger Dr. Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr.

The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology has a large collection of some of the most important apparatus and objects related to psychological science and practice covering the past 150 years.  There are brass chronoscopes from the 1800s that measured reaction time in one-thousandths of a second.  There are a variety of rat mazes, tachistoscopes, and Skinner boxes.  The “shock” machine used by Stanley Milgram in his famous obedience studies is in the Center’s collections as are a Bobo doll from Albert Bandura’s research, guard uniforms from Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford prison study, a surrogate monkey head from Harry Harlow’s studies of love in monkeys, and one of B. F. Skinner’s air cribs.  The Center is always looking to add to its collections, including items that were of questionable scientific value.  One such item is the Psycho-Phone pictured below.

ben1

 

Similar in principle to audio devices today that play messages during a person’s sleep, for example, alleging sleep learning, the Psycho-Phone was the invention of Alois Benjamin Saliger (1880-1969) who patented his machine in 1932 as an “Automatic Time-Controlled Suggestion Machine.”  The device was essentially an Edison-style phonograph with a timer that played the contents from a wax cylinder during the period of sleep.  Saliger believed that the messages delivered during sleep would enter a person’s unconscious and have a powerful influence on the individual’s behavior.

 

The device was first advertised in the June 1927 issue of the popular psychology magazine, “Psychology: Health, Happiness, Success.”

ben2

The machine was quite expensive, selling for $235 in 1929.  That would be the equivalent of $3,250 in 2017.  It came with several wax cylinders, each with messages relating to a different theme; one was labeled “Prosperity”, another “Life Extension,” and a third “Mating.”  Eventually Saliger expanded the record library to more than a dozen titles, even one in Spanish.  According to a story in The New Yorker in 1933, the message on the Mating recording included the following statements: “I desire a mate.  I radiate love.  I have a fascinating and attractive personality.  My conversation is interesting.  My company is delightful.  I have a strong sex appeal.”  Saliger was convinced of the effectiveness of the Psycho-Phone noting that 50 of his customers reported finding a mate.  He did not say how many of the Mating recordings had been sold.

Saliger ran monthly advertisements in the popular psychology magazines of the late 1920s touting the remarkable benefits of his Psycho-Phone.  Here is another of his ads.

ben3

In looking for expert endorsers of his machine, Saliger might have chosen someone other than Dr. Quackenbos, whose name would not conjure up images of a charlatan.

ben4

By 1933, Saliger claimed that he had sold more than 2,500 of the Psycho-Phones.  If such a number is even close to being accurate, a number of these devices should still exist today.  But despite our best efforts, we have not been able to find one to add to our collections at the Center.  If you have one of these or know of the location of a Psycho-Phone we would appreciate your contacting the Center at ahap@uakron.edu.  If you would like to donate one to the Center as a charitable gift, it would be most appreciated.

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contributed by Jodi Kearns

Can a board game save your life?

The Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. Popular Psychology Magazine Collection is a gift that keeps on giving. While digitizing the collection, I noticed order forms with vague descriptions and testimonials for three therapeutic games by the Kimm Company on the back covers of some 1977 and 1978 issues of Human Behavior.

The Ungame (for ages 8 to 108) with its tagline “Tell it like it is” suggests that by playing, you can give your friends a better understanding about who you are. “Can a game save a life? Prevent a bad marriage? Bring a father and son closer together?” Well, the publishers do not promise these results in every case, but claim to have received “cards, letters and even phone calls on a daily basis which prove The Ungame can and has improved the quality of life for thousands of people.” Do favors and give compliments and say what you really feel.

The Ungame Advertisement 1970s

Roll-a-Role (for ages 8 to 108) claims to be “A Life-Changing Experience!” that is entertaining, enlightening, non-competitive, and non-threatening. It’s a game of communication, dramatization, and improvisation by becoming new people and acting out situations rolled by the dice prompts and a talk topic.

Roll-a-Role Advertisement 1970s

Social Security (for ages 6 to 106) is about “getting along with people” by sharing opinions, hopes, humor, and dreams. Its disclaimer indicates no affiliation to a government program, but that playing the game offers a tax-free path to being socially secure. Players can visit places on the board like the Dynamite Solutions Juice Bar and the Feelings Fruitstand. Play this game for a “revelation in expression.”

Social Security Advertisement 1970s

Social Security Advertisement 1970s

People who have recently played these 1970s therapy games rank them between 1½ and 2½ stars out of 10 on boardgamegeek.com. You can’t win ‘em all, (so I guess it’s appropriate that these games of therapy are designed to have no losers.)

The CCHP would be pleased to archive your copies of these Kimm Company games. Kimm Company was a Division of Manson Western Corporation in Los Angeles, California. Please contact us at ahap@uakron.edu to initiate the donation process.

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