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Like science in general, psychological research has never had a method. Rather, psychologists have deployed many methods under quite variable justifications. The history of these methods is thus a history of contestation. Psychology’s method debates are many and varied, but they mostly constellate around two interconnected concerns: psychology’s status as a science, and psychology’s proper subject matter. On the first question, the majority position has been an attempt to establish psychology as scientific, and thus committed to quantification and to objective, particularly experimental, methods. Challenging this position, many have argued that psychology cannot be a science, or at least not a natural one. Others have questioned the epistemic privilege of operationalization, quantification, experimentation, and even science itself. Connecting epistemic concerns with those of ethics and morality, some have pointed to the dehumanizing and oppressive consequences of objectification. In contrast to the debates over psychology’s status as a science, the question of its proper subject matter has produced no permanent majority position, but perennial methodological debates. Perhaps the oldest of these is the conflict over whether and how self, mind, or consciousness can be observed. This conflict produced famous disagreements like the imageless thought controversy and the behaviorist assault on “introspection.” Other recurrent debates include those over whether psychologists study wholes or aggregates, structures or functions, and states or dynamic systems.

Article

Noemi Pizarroso Lopez

Historical psychology claims that the mind has a history, that is, that our ways of thinking, reasoning, perceiving, feeling, and acting are not necessarily universal or invariable, but are instead subject to modifications over time and space. The theoretical and methodological foundations of this movement were laid in France by psychologist Ignace Meyerson in his book Les fonctions psychologiques et les œuvres, published in 1948. His program stressed the active, experimental, constructive nature of human behavior, spanning behavioral registers as diverse as the linguistic, the religious, the juridical, the scientific/technical, and the artistic. All these behaviors involve aspects of different mental functions that we can infer through a proper analysis of “works,” considered as consolidated testimonies of human activity. As humanity’s successive achievements, constructed over the length of all the paths of the human experience, they are the materials with which psychology has to deal. Meyerson refused to propose an inventory of functions to study. As unstable and imperfect products of a complex and uncertain undertaking, they can be analyzed only by avoiding the counterproductive prejudice of metaphysical fixism. Meyerson spoke in these terms of both deep transformations of feelings, of the person, or of the will, and of the so-called “basic functions,” such as perception and the imaginative function, including memory, time, space, and object. Before Meyerson the term “historical psychology” had already been used by historians like Henri Berr and Lucien Febvre, a founding member of the Annales school, who firmly envisioned a sort of collective psychology of times past. Meyerson and his disciples eventually vied with their fellow historians of the Annales school for the label of “historical psychology” and criticized their notions of mentality and outillage mental. The Annales historians gradually abandoned the label, although they continued to cultivate the idea that mental operations and emotions have a history through the new labels of a “history of mentalities” and, more recently at the turn of the century, a “history of emotions.” While Meyerson and a few other psychologists kept using the “historical psychology” label, however, mainstream psychology remained quite oblivious to this historical focus. The greatest efforts made today among psychologists to think of our mental architecture in terms of transformation over time and space are probably to be found in the work of Kurt Danziger and Roger Smith.

Article

Shauna Shapiro and Elli Weisbaum

Mindfulness practice and protocols—often referred to as mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs)—have become increasingly popular in every sector of society, including healthcare, education, business, and government. Due to this exponential growth, thoughtful reflection is needed to understand the implications of, and interactions between, the historical context of mindfulness (insights and traditions that have been cultivated over the past 25 centuries) and its recent history (the adaptation and applications within healthcare, therapeutic and modern culture, primarily since the 1980s). Research has shown that MBIs have significant health benefits including decreased stress, insomnia, anxiety, and panic, along with enhancing personal well-being, perceptual sensitivity, processing speed, empathy, concentration, reaction time, motor skills, and cognitive performance including short- and long-term memory recall and academic performance. As with any adaptation, skillful decisions have to be made about what is included and excluded. Concerns and critiques have been raised by clinicians, researchers, and Buddhist scholars about the potential impact that the decontextualization of mindfulness from its original roots may have on the efficacy, content, focus, and delivery of MBIs. By honoring and reflecting on the insights, intentions, and work from both historical and contemporary perspectives of mindfulness, the field can support the continued development of effective, applicable, and accessible interventions and programs.

Article

Rebecca K. Dickinson, Tristan J. Coulter, and Clifford J. Mallett

As a basic psychological framework, humanistic theory emphasizes a strong interest in human welfare, values, and dignity. It involves the study and understanding of the unique whole person and how people can reach a heightened sense of self through the process of self-actualization. The focus within humanism to encourage and foster people to be “all they can be” and develop a true sense of self links to a strengths-based approach in sports coaching and the defining principles of positive psychology. In the field of sport and performance psychology, positive psychology has been influential as a discipline concerned with the optimal functioning and human flourishing of performers. Since the 2000s, many sport and performance psychologists have embraced positive psychology as a theoretical basis for examining consistent and superior human performance. However, in the modern history of psychological science, positive psychology is not a new phenomenon; rather, it stems from humanism—the traditional “third wave” in psychology (after the dominance of psychoanalytic and behaviorist approaches). Sport is recognized as a potentially influential context through which people at all levels and backgrounds can thrive. The tendency to focus on performance outcomes, however—winning and losing—often overshadows the potential of sport to achieve this aspirational goal. As evidence of this view, many high-performing athletes are commenting on their distressing experiences to reach the top and the “culture of fear” they have been exposed to as they pursue their own and others’ (e.g., institutional) ambitions (e.g., medaling at the Olympic Games). Humanism concerns itself with the quality of a person’s life, which includes, but also extends beyond such objective and classifying achievements. It is a person-centered approach to understanding the individual and his or her psychological, emotional, and behavioral reality. It seeks to help people define this reality more clearly in such a way that will help them feel good and perform at a high level. Humanism has been, therefore, an important school of thought for improving the lives and experiences of people who play sport as well as those who perform in various other contexts.

Article

Alexandra Rutherford and Tal Davidson

As a conceptual and analytic framework, intersectionality has informed, and can transform, how scholars approach psychology and its history. Intersectionality provides a framework for examining how multiple social categories combine in systems characterized by both oppression and privilege to affect the experiences of those occupying the intersections of these social categories. The concept has its origins in the writings of Black feminists and critical race theorists in the 1970s and 1980s. Since that time, many critical debates about the definition, uses, and even misuses of intersectionality have been put forward by scholars in many fields. In psychology, the uptake of intersectionality as a methodological and epistemological framework has been undertaken largely by feminist psychologists. In this context, intersectionality has been used as both a logic for designing research, and as a perspective from which to critique the perpetuation of intersectional oppression latent in mainstream psychological research. In addition, intersectionality has also been applied to writing histories of psychology that attend to the operation of multiple intersecting forms of oppression and privilege. For example, historians of psychology have taken up intersectionality as a way to approach the intersections of scientific racism, sexism, and heterocentrism in the history of psychology’s concepts and theories. Intersectionality also has the potential for generating a more sophisticated historical understanding of social activism by psychologists. Finally, given that extant histories of psychology focusing on the American context have rendered the contributions of women of color largely invisible, intersectional analysis can serve to re-instantiate and foreground their experiences and contributions.

Article

James McCosh (b. 1811–d. 1894) was a contributor to early American psychology, writing several books on the topic of mental science. Born in Scotland, he immigrated to America in 1868 to serve as the president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). There he promoted science and welcomed the new psychology that was emerging, even supporting his students to pursue psychology graduate study in Europe. McCosh saw faith and science as compatible and embraced theistic evolution as in keeping with Christian theology. McCosh’s psychological works (The Intuitions of the Mind Inductively Investigated; The Emotions; Psychology: The Cognitive Powers; and Psychology: The Motive Powers) were all relied on Scottish-Realist informed inductive methodology, used to map the functions of the mind and uncover mental laws. Although McCosh believed the new psychology had the potential for a dangerous materialism if wrongly interpreted, he thought the new physiological and laboratory research was valuable and worth pursuing. His last major work (Psychology: The Cognitive Powers) attempted to integrate recent physiological psychology research into his mental philosophy methods. McCosh has traditionally been omitted from histories of psychology, but modern scholarship has noted his absence and explored the reasons for this. Scholars generally agree that there was significant continuity between the old mental and moral philosophy and the new experimental psychology in a number of respects. The new psychologists, in attempting to professionalize and define their discipline, sought to erase their dependence on earlier forms of American psychology. Thus, it is more accurate to understand neglect of McCosh not as a sign of his irrelevance or hostility to psychology but as a historical product of the emergence of a distinct American psychology. His erasure points to the new psychologists’ uneasiness with their folk American elements and their efforts to achieve scientific status as they worked to indigenize German experimental psychology. Given his actions at Princeton, McCosh is rightly understood as a bridge builder between old and new psychology.

Article

Stanley Milgram’s experiments on obedience to authority are among the most influential and controversial social scientific studies ever conducted. They remain staples of introductory psychology courses and textbooks, yet their influence reaches far beyond psychology, with myriad other disciplines finding lessons in them. Indeed, the experiments have long since broken free of the confines of academia, occupying a place in popular culture that is unrivaled among psychological experiments. The present article begins with an overview of Milgram’s account of his experimental procedure and findings, before focussing on recent scholarship that has used materials from Milgram’s archive to challenge many of the long-held assumptions about the experiments. Three areas in which our understanding of the obedience experiments has undergone a radical shift in recent years are the subject of particular focus. First, work that has identified new ethical problems with Milgram’s studies is summarized. Second, hitherto unknown methodological variations in Milgram’s experimental procedures are considered. Third, the interactions that took place in the experimental sessions themselves are explored. This work has contributed to a shift in how we see the obedience experiments. Rather than viewing the experiments as demonstrations of people’s propensity to follow orders, it is now clear that people did not follow orders in Milgram’s experiments. The experimenter did a lot more than simply issue orders, and when he did, participants found it relatively straightforward to defy them. These arguments are discussed in relation to the definition of obedience that has typically been adopted in psychology, the need for further historical work on Milgram’s experiments, and the possibilities afforded by the development of a broader project of secondary qualitative analysis of laboratory interaction in psychology experiments.

Article

The term “psychology” was applied for the first time in the 16th century. Yet the most interesting examples appeared in three different contexts. The Croatian poet and humanist Marko Marulić (ca. 1520), the German philosopher and Calvinist Johann Thomas Freig (1575), and the German Lutheran philosopher Rudolph Goclenius (1590). Marulić’s manuscript is likely lost, and neither of the other two defined the term. Even the interests of the three went apparently in different directions. Marulić focused on poetry and history, Freig on physica, and Goclenius on theological issues. Nevertheless, they had something in common, and this may represent the gate through which the ways they conceived the term can be understood. They all dealt with the soul, but also that it was a highly disputable concept and not uniformly understood. Another commonality was the avoidance or reinterpretation of Aristotle’s philosophy. The Florentines’ cultivation of Plato had influenced Marulić. Freig was a Ramist, thus, also a humanist who approached philosophical questions rhetorically. Goclenius belonged partly to the same movement. Consequently, they all shared a common interest in texts and language. This is just one, yet quite important aspect of the origin of psychology as a science. Thus, these text- and humanity-oriented aspects of psychology are traceable from the very beginning. This reaches a peak point when Alexander Baumgarten publishes his two volumes on aesthetics, as they were based on Christian Wolff’s Psychologia empirica (1732). They are also traceable in Kant’s critical phase, and even more in Wundt’s folkpsychology. Thus there is a more or less continuous line from the very first uses of the term psychology and some tendencies in social and cultural psychology. In other words, psychology is pursued along an historical line that ends up in the German, and not the British enlightenment.

Article

Donald V. Brown Jr., Karyna Pryiomka, and Joshua W. Clegg

Self-observation, an umbrella term for a number of methods associated with first-order accounts of mental activity (e.g. introspection) and first-person reporting, has been a part of psychology’s investigative procedures since the inception of the discipline. It remains an integral, albeit contested, tool for psychologists to use across essentially every sub-field. In areas such as phenomenology, memory research, psychological assessment, and ethnography, among others, self-observation has been deployed to access information not readily acquired through alternative methods. Other names for introspective methods include self-report, retrospection, inner perception, and self-reflection.

Article

Personnel and vocational testing has made a huge impact in public and private organizations by helping organizations choose the best employees for a particular job (personnel testing) and helping individuals choose occupations for which they are best suited (vocational testing). The history of personnel and vocational testing is one in which scientific advances were influenced by historical and technological developments. The first systematic efforts at personnel and vocational testing began during World War I when the US military needed techniques to sort through a large number of applicants in a short amount of time. Techniques of psychological testing had just begun to be developed at around the turn of the 20th century and those techniques were quickly applied to the US military effort. After the war, intelligence and personality tests were used by business organizations to help choose applicants most likely to succeed in their organizations. In addition, when the Great Depression occurred, vocational interest tests were used by government organizations to help the unemployed choose occupations that they might best succeed in. The development of personnel and vocational tests was greatly influenced by the developing techniques of psychometric theory as well as general statistical theory. From the 1930s onward, significant advances in reliability and validity theory provided a framework for test developers to be able to develop tests and validate them. In addition, the civil rights movement within the United States, and particularly the Civil Rights Act of 1964, forced test developers to develop standards and procedures to justify test usage. This legislation and subsequent court cases ensured that psychologists would need to be involved deeply in personnel testing. Finally, testing in the 1990s onward was greatly influenced by technological advances. Computerization helped standardize administration and scoring of tests as well as opening up the possibility for multimedia item formats. The introduction of the internet and web-based testing also provided additional challenges and opportunities.

Article

In the literature of mainstream scientific psychology, German scholar William Stern has been known primarily (if at all) as the inventor of the intelligence quotient (IQ). In fact, however, Stern’s contributions to psychology were much greater and more consequential than this. In this all-inclusive article, I have sought to provide readers with a fuller appreciation for the breadth and depth of Stern’s work, and, in particular, for that comprehensive system of thought that he elaborated under the name “critical personalism.” Drawing frequently on translated quotations from Stern’s published works, and on his personal correspondence with the Freiburg philosopher Jonas Cohn, I have endeavored to show how Stern was much more than “the IQ guy.” During the first 20 years of his academic career, spent at the University of Breslau in what is now the Polish city of Wroclaw, Stern founded that sub-discipline of psychology that would be concentrated on the study of individual differences in various aspects of human psychological functioning. He also made major contributions to that sub-discipline referred to at the time as “child” psychology, and laid the foundations for a comprehensive system of thought that he would name “critical personalism.” After relocating to Hamburg in 1916, Stern continued his scholarly efforts in these domains, taught courses both in psychology and in philosophy at the university that opened its doors there in 1919, and played major administrative roles there in the institutional homes of both disciplines until forced to flee Nazi Germany in 1934. The present chapter highlights ways in which, over the course of his scholarly career, Stern boldly opposed certain trends within mainstream thinking that were ascendant during his time.