The Cold War took place between 1948 and 1991 and centered on the antagonism between the two great superpowers, the US and the USSR, each with its allies and areas of influence. If the US had a significant influence in the West, the USSR dominated the countries of Eastern Europe. The USSR violently imposed communist totalitarian regimes after the end of the Second World War in the countries behind the Iron Curtain: the German Democratic Republic, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria and Albania. The psychological traditions consolidated up to that time were in many of these countries eradicated, meaning the restructuring or abolition of higher education, the abolition of scientific societies and journals. Many psychologists with connections to the Western academic world were purged and persecuted. There was the will to build a new socialist psychology, based strictly on Marxist ideology and Pavlovian physiology. Theories or approaches that did not reflect official ideology were forbidden and labeled as bourgeois pseudoscience. Authorities severely punished psychological practice based on such theories. There were similarities between what happened in these countries, especially in the first decade of the imposition of communism. However, after the death of Joseph Stalin, things developed somewhat differently in each country. Although in some places ideological policies in science had a progressive tendency toward liberalization, in other places there was significant negative interferences throughout the communist period. Due to this diversity, it is somewhat challenging to frame the development of psychology in Eastern Europe during the Cold War from a unitary perspective.
Deborah Brown and Brian Key
Few practitioners or researchers in psychology would think of the 17th-century French philosopher, René Descartes, as the founding father of their discipline. Yet, it is difficult to see how psychology could have emerged as a discipline in its own right without the contributions of Descartes. Descartes’ theoretical and experimental contributions to our understanding of rationality, consciousness, sensation, feeling, attention, psychological self-regulation and voluntary action, and indeed the very concept of mind that lies at the heart of his philosophy, have been pivotal to the evolution of psychology since its emergence as a special science in the 19th-century. These contributions tend to get overshadowed by the unpalatable aspects of his dualism of mind and body and his denial of animal consciousness, doctrines for which he was and still is much pilloried. However, both doctrines are relevant to understanding how from its inception the subject matter and scope of psychological investigation was framed, for underlying the Cartesian concept of mind is not one dualism but two: a dualism of mind and body and a dualism of life and mind. The mind, for Descartes, could not be theorized on its own terms without conceiving of it at least to some extent independently of the physiological processes of the human body, on the one hand, and the life functions of biological organisms, on the other. Descartes’ legacy for psychology as a discipline is thus twofold. It created the conceptual space for the concept of mind to emerge as a threshold concept in its own right, distinct from the concept of matter that defined mechanics, and it demarcated those uniquely human capacities that enabled psychology to differentiate itself from the newly emerging evolutionary biology of the 19th-century, even though it would remain more closely aligned with biology than physics thenceforth. Without both dualisms of mind and body and life and mind, it is difficult to envisage how psychology as a special science distinct from anatomy and the life sciences could have emerged, and for this the discipline of psychology owes Monsieur Descartes a considerable debt.
The problem of time in psychology, which first became the object of attention and investigation by scientific psychology concerning the aspect of temporal measurement of mental processes, has been addressed since the early 20th century with regard to the perception of time, also called the subjective experience of time. The reaction time paradigm, defined as the minimum time between the presentation of a stimulus and the participant’s response to it, is closely related to the birth of experimental psychology. The determination of an objective parameter of the speed of the nerve impulse, therefore, represented the initial purpose of the psychochronometric studies. Defining the object of study for experimental psychology as immediate conscious experience or subjective experience of consciousness has led psychologists to reflect on the distinction between physical time and psychological time—a distinction already present in the philosophical field—and to analyze the latter in all its manifestations through sophisticated and complex experimental investigations. Psychologists, although aware of the reflections on time developed by philosophical doctrines and prepared to take these into account, generally tried to steer clear of the questions relating to the typical problems of philosophy—the nature of the idea of time and its corresponding reality—preferring to concentrate their analysis on the subjective experience of time. In relation to the different varieties of the temporal experience, experiments have been conceived and set up to analyze, measure, and precisely define them using the psychophysical and psychophysiological research paradigm. Between the end of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century researches concerning perception of the present, simultaneity, succession, instant, and time interval were developed.
The relationship between psychoanalysis and Critical Theory (the Frankfurt School), contrary to dominant interpretations, is examined from a sociocultural perspective. Psychoanalysis addressed the sociopolitical issues of its time, including cultural shifts, war, and the cultural conditio humana in general. Beyond that, and more importantly, it is argued that the core psychoanalytic concepts, including drive itself, can be understood as a structure open to social co-construction. Such an interpretation of psychoanalysis can provide a link to Critical Theory of society. First, both sociopolitical and theoretical conditions in the 1920s and 1930s merit analysis under which members of the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research referred to Freud’s psychoanalysis. A theory was needed that would examine a missing point in Marxist interpretations, which the Institute adopted as its political and theoretical framework. What was missing was a place for subjective mediating factors, especially important among which were those generated by drives and those that operated unconsciously. The views on psychoanalysis and its role in the first generation of Critical Theory are analyzed, particularly the views of Horkheimer, Adorno, Fromm, and, most extensively, Marcuse, given the fact that Freud’s psychoanalysis had a central role in his thought. Finally, questions regarding the contemporary relevance of psychoanalysis and Critical Theory under new sociocultural conditions in the 21st century are raised.
Jennifer Clegg and Richard Lansdall-Welfare
Neoliberalism is a transatlantic free market ideology based on individual liberty and limited government, developed by Hayek and von Mises. In its third wave (1980–2008), commitment to deregulation, privatization, and individual freedom moved beyond the economy into politics and culture. The citizen was recast as a consumer, and public servants became required to satisfy consumer choice. This addressed 1970s social turmoil and improved economies, but the increased wealth went to elites while resources declined for the poor. Hayek had argued for social welfare safety nets initially, but these were rejected by peers in the Mont Pelerin Society. Business-funded transatlantic think tanks promulgated the neoliberal tenets that markets are wiser than any government and state interference makes things worse. Yet, despite these rhetorical claims, neoliberalism has actually been imposed, driven, and underwritten by governments that claim their policy is nonintervention. Neoliberalism soon influenced the political economies of most countries in the developed world, but the degree of separation engendered between rich and poor is a political choice: most extreme in the United States, with the United Kingdom a close second. Establishing neoliberal values like autonomy and choice as taken for granted occurred by “hollowing out” organizations and communities in ways that block dissent and drastically narrow the scope for debate.
Psychology is both an academic and applied discipline, with applied psychologists significantly outnumbering academics throughout the 20th century. Expansion was particularly marked during third-wave neoliberalism (1980–2008) in the United Kingdom, when the British Psychological Society grew more than fivefold to over 40,000 members. Two special editions of journals in 2018 and 2019 raised concerns about the relationship between psychology and neoliberalism. In sum, they argued that applied psychology’s self-presentation as a discipline that can solve the problems experienced by individuals glosses over the social origin of most human difficulties, and that modern psychology’s alienated and individualist epistemology makes it a potent neoliberal institution rather than a discipline that can generate alternatives.
Cynthia E. Winston-Proctor and Michael R. Winston
Within racialized societies, the meaning of race is an important topic of psychological study. As Helms and colleagues has been pointed out, however, race has no consensual theoretical or scientific meaning in psychology, although the term race is frequently used in psychological theory, research, and practice as if it has obvious meaning. A recent cultural historical analysis of race scholarship concluded that race as a label has developed over time, leading to the treatment of race as a “thing.” Such ideological use of race as a thing has been discredited. Nevertheless, socially destructive ideological concepts of race have been embedded in racialized societies to varying degrees through social, economic, and political institutions and their practices.
In the history of the field of psychology, race has had various theoretical conceptualizations (i.e., definitions). Most of these theoretical conceptualizations can be linked to larger scientific and societal movements within racialized societies. Relatedly, psychologists have adopted various epistemological and methodological approaches to studying race, although positivist empiricism has dominated. The complexities of the theoretical conceptualization and methodological approaches in the field of psychology for studying race have led to multiple analyses of how to address “psychology’s problems with race.” Multiple features of a racialized society provide the broader context for the study race within the field of psychology.
Wade E. Pickren and Ingrid G. Farreras
In a relatively brief period of time, the discipline of psychology in the United States changed from being mostly concerned with its status as a legitimate science, qua physics or biology, to a rapidly growing field caught up in the tensions between academic science and the practice of psychology as a mental health profession. The numerical growth of the field’s members was heavily concentrated in the professional areas of mental health application. This was due primarily to the changed conditions of postwar life and the concerns of policymakers about the mental health of citizens in a dynamic, fast-changing, and fast-paced society. Government funding for psychology dramatically increased, especially funds for training clinical psychologists and for conducting research on mental health problems. It was not long before many of the clinical psychologists moved away from solely academic work and into the private practice of providing psychotherapy to clients. The discipline’s main organizational body of the time was the American Psychological Association, which came under pressure to allocate intellectual, organizational, and financial resources to the support of its practitioner members. One of the most intense battles of this period was that of creating different training models for clinical psychology. The early postwar model placed priority on training clinical psychology students to be scientists first, but by the 1960s, the demand for greater emphasis on training for practice had to be addressed for the field to remain coherent. Along with the internal tensions, psychology had to come to terms with external pressures as well. Among its challenges were those from competing professions, such as medicine, to its legal and cultural authority to provide professional services. Psychology eventually won those battles, but only after a state-by-state fight. Psychology was also presented with the challenges of a society wrestling with social problems, such as the demands for equal civil rights and opportunities. By the late 1960s, there were increasing demands for inclusion of students and faculty of color in graduate training and while there were some successes, there remained challenges that endured into the 21st century.
Push and Pull: Biological and Psychological Models of Sexuality in Medical Sexology and Psychoanalysis (1870–1930)
Sexual science or sexology arose in the last three decades of the 19th century when psychiatrists and neurologists began to study and treat deviant sexualities as sickly “perversions.” The new science of experimental psychology did not engage with this morally contested subject. Research into sexuality was rooted in a biomedical and clinical approach. All the same, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, some medical experts increasingly explained perversion as well as regular sexuality in a psychological way. This trend was intertwined with the changing definition of sexuality as either a pushing or a pulling force, which pertained not only to biological versus psychological interpretations, but also to the contrast between nature and culture, male and female sexuality, and pessimistic and optimistic evaluations. All of this has contributed to the shaping of the modern concept and experience of sexuality and also to its sociopolitical regulation in the 20th-century Western world.
Jeanne Marecek and Eva Magnusson
Qualitative inquiry is a form of psychological research that seeks in-depth understanding of people and their social worlds. Qualitative researchers typically study the experiences of people as meaning-making agents, relying on verbal material. Qualitative inquiry has a long history in psychology, beginning in the 19th century with founders of psychology like William James and Wilhelm Wundt. However, for much of the 20th century, qualitative inquiry has occupied a marginal position in the discipline. This marginalization is best understood in relation to the discipline’s early struggle to be regarded as legitimate. Adopting the methods of the natural sciences—notably quantification and measurement—was a means to that end. Qualitative approaches, though suppressed for much of the 20th century, were not entirely eliminated from the field. Personality theorists, for example, continued to make use of them.
The 1970s marked the advent of new forms of qualitative inquiry in psychology, which drew from a variety of intellectual and philosophical movements. These developments continued to gain acceptance and adherents. Since the turn of the 20th century, national and international organizations of qualitative researchers in psychology have been established. Venues for publishing qualitative research in psychology have increased. Nonetheless, qualitative inquiry is still marginalized in many academic psychology departments, and training in qualitative methods is seldom part of the methods curriculum.
Reflexivity, a recursive process of turning back, occurs throughout science. Back-and-forth reflexive processes transpire when the scientist executes self-regard and whenever human science theory incorporates the researcher’s actions. Reflexive processes occur too in the myriad, unavoidable ways that observations of the world depend on scientists’ prior understandings of the world. The multiple forms and complexities of reflexivity pose challenges for all science, yet the challenges are especially pronounced in a science, like psychology, that generates knowledge about human nature. Confronting reflexivity is further impeded by psychology’s markedly scientific (not human scientific) goals to achieve objectivity and value neutrality, and to maintain naturalist assumptions about reality. Yet over the lifespan of scientific psychology some psychologists have faced these challenges and recommended means to acknowledge reflexivity. Their investigations have located, named, and analyzed a set of fallacies associated with disregarding reflexivity. The fallacies include assuming that the psychologist’s conception of cognitive processes are the same as their subject’s; that the psychologist can fully bracket their presuppositions from their observations; that psychological theories need not be relevant to their own scientific thoughts and behaviors; that psychology’s prescribed language for reporting findings accurately describes the phenomenon under investigation; and that psychological knowledge has no consequential effects on the world it predicts and explains. Addressing such fallacies and taking steps to remove them through sustained reflexive awareness is essential to attaining an empirically robust, veridical, and dynamic science. Taken together, the efforts of psychologists who have faced reflexivity and the fallacies related to its denial comprise a productive working template for developing a science that benefits from engaging with reflexive processes instead of disregarding them.