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The British Society for the History of Science

Of What Is History of Psychology a History?


Author(s): Graham Richards
Source: The British Journal for the History of Science, Vol. 20, No. 2 (Apr., 1987), pp. 201-
211
Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of The British Society for the History of Science
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BJHS, 1987,20,201-211

Of What is History of Psychologya History?

GRAHAM RICHARDS*

The BritishPsychologicalSocietyhavingestablisheda 'PhilosophyandHistory'section,


a freshlook at the natureof the Historyof Psychologyis calledfor. Inthispaper,I would
like to make a contributionto this by raisingsome conundrumswhich have yet to be
adequatelyaddressed.First,though,what has happenedin the Historyof Psychologyso
far? Psychologistshave been writing historiesof theirdisciplinesince the turn of the
century;Baldwin'sHistoryof Psychology'appearedin 1913, for example,and the first
volume of G. S. Brett'strilogyof the sametitle in 1912,2a yearwhichalso saw Dessoir's
Outlines of the History of Psychology3 translatedinto English.This earlywork was
clearlyaimedat providinga respectablegenealogyfor the nascentdiscipline;only about
a fifth of Baldwin's work actually deals with experimentalor empiricalPsychology
dating from later than the mid-nineteenthcentury, while Brett treats scientific
approachesvirtuallyas a coda to a surveyof the historyof the philosophyof mind.
Psychology is presented as the legitimate heir to the main western philosophical
tradition, sired on it, so to speak,by physiologistssuchas Helmholtz,MullerandBroca.
In 1929, E. G. Boring publishedthe first edition of his A History of Experimental
Psychology,4 which dominatedthe field for decadesalong with GardnerMurphy's
HistoricalIntroductionof ModernPsychology5of 1928, a lighterweightwork butwith
a somewhat broader range, which served as an introductorytext. Both went into
subsequent editions, the latter as recently as 1972 (muchenlarged).The series The
Historyof Psychologyin Autobiography,6 begunin 1930 andnow in its seventhvolume
1 James Mark Baldwin, History of Psychology: A Sketch and an Interpretation.London, n.d. (Prefacedate:
1913).
2 G.S. Brett, History of Psychology, 3 vols, London, 1912-1921.
3 M. Dessoir, Outlines of the History of Psychology, (tr. D. Fisher),New York, 1912. Other early histories
of Psychology in English include: 0. Klemm, History of Psychology (tr. E.C. Wilm and R. Pinter),New York,
1914; W.B. Pillsbury, History of Psychology, New York, 1929; B. Rand, Classical Psychologists, Boston,
1912; H.C. Warren, History of the Association of Psychology, New York, 1921; G.S. Hall, Founders of
Modern Psychology, New York, 1912.
4 Edwin Garrigues Boring, A History of Experimental Psychology, New York, 1929 (2nd edn. 1957);
Boring's other principal contribution to the area was Sensation and Perception in the History of Experimental
Psychology, New York, 1942.
5 Gardner Murphy, An Historical Introduction to Modern Psychology, London, 1928 (6th edn. with
Joseph K. Kovach, 1972).
6 C. Murchison (ed.), The History of Psychology in Autobiography, Worcester, Massachusetts, 1930,
1932, 1936; E.G. Boring (ed.), New York, 1952; E.G. Boring and GardnerLindzey (eds), New Jersey, 1967;
Gardner Lindzey (ed.), New Jersey, 1974, San Francisco, 1980.
*North East London Polytechnic, Romford Road, London E15, U.K.
This is an amended version of a paper delivered at the British Society for the History of ScienceWinterMeeting,
5 January 1985.
202 Graham Richards

(1980), containsprofessionalautobiographiesby the ageingeminentof varyinglevelsof


self-disclosure,wit and informativevalue. It is not, however,until the 1960s that a
self-conscious sub-disciplinecalling itself 'History of Psychology'emerges within
Psychology,beingpioneeredby the late R. I. Watsonin the UnitedStates.New histories
begin appearing, including Kantor's very positivistic The ScientificEvolution of
Psychology Vol. 17 of 1963 and Hearnshaw'sA ShortHistoryof BritishPsychologyfof
1964. In 1965, the Journalfor the History of the BehavioralScienceswas started,
formallysignallingthe arrivalof the new sub-disciplineon the scene.Subsequentevents
warranta morecriticalappraisal.
As a sweeping generalization,it can be said that for muchof its lifetimeEnglish-
speakingPsychology(if not GermanPsychology)was strugglingto establishits scientific
credentials,this beingone factorunderlyingboththeriseof Behaviorismafter19129and
the eagernesswith whichpsychometricswas developedin the inter-bellum.One feature
of this was that Psychologytook Philosophyof Sciencefarmoreseriouslythandid most
other disciplines;by operatingaccordingto the rules laid down by philosophersof
science as to how to be scientific,Psychologycould ensureits scientificstatus.Thus,
logical positivisminspires,in the U.S.A.especially,suchextraordinary productsas Clark
Hull's hypothetico-deductivetheory,with its arcanealgebraand comprehensive oper-
ational definitions of all terms. Psychologywould becomescientificby emulatingthe
sciences.It is thereforeno surpriseto findthatthosestrivingto establisha sub-discipline
of History of Psychologyin the U.S.A.in the 1960s shoulddo so by emulatingexisting
History of Science,which meant,in the wake of Kuhn,lookingfor candidatesfor the
roles of 'paradigm','revolution','normalscience'andso on. Combinedwith the general
propensityof U.S. psychologiststo rateand rank,one resultis thatthe nearestthingto a
comprehensivebibliographyof the Historyof Psychology,producedby R. 1. Watson
(1974, 1976)10was compiledon the basisof a questionnaire-derived rankingof all-time
greatpsychologists.Apartfromthe factthatit is veryoftenthe obscurefigureson whom
one needs to consult suchworksandthe acceptanceof thejudgements of 'nineacademic
psychologists' of the early 1970s as somehowdefinitive,the outcomewas that neither
Lavater,nor GeorgeCombe,nor Thomas Willis,for example,were actuallyincluded
(althoughDalton was, by virtueof one paperseventeenpages long on colourvision).
Watson acknowledgesthe absenceof Combeand Willis,but Lavaterfailsto obtainany
mentionat all (thereasonfor this apparentdigressionwill becomeapparentlater.)
7 J.R. Kantor, The Scientific Evolution of Psychology Vol. 1. Chicago and Granville,Ohio, 1963.
8 L.S. Hearnshaw, A Short History of British Psychology 1840-1940, London, 1964.
9 This is conventionally dated from J.B. Watson, 'Psychology as the behaviorist views it', Psychological
Review, (1913), 20, pp. 158- 177.
10 R.I. Watson, Eminent Contributors to Psychology, Volume 1: A Bibliographyof PrimaryReferences,
New York, 1974; Volume 2: A Bibliography of Secondary References,New York, 1976.
R.I. Watson died in 1980, having been Professor of Psychology at the Universityof New Hampshire since
1967 [see Barbara Ross, 'In memoriam: Robert I. Watson Snr. 1909-1980', Journal of the History of the
Behavioural Sciences (J.H.B.S. hereafter), (1981), 17, pp. 1-21. For the methodology used in compiling this
work see R.I. Watson and Maralyn Merrifield, 'Eminent psychologists: correction and additions', J.H.B.S.
(1970), 6, pp. 261-262; ditto 'Characteristicsof individuals eminent in psychology in temporal perspectiveI.'
J.H.B.S. (1973), 9, pp. 339-368, as well as pp. ix-xxi of the introduction to Vol. 1. In addition to the
observations of this work which follow in the main text, might be noted that bibliographicdetails are often only
provided for the most recent, not the first, editions of books!
History of Psychology 203
To returnto my main line of argument,in a repeatperformanceof Psychology's
earlierstrivingsto becomeassimilatedinto Science,Historyof Psychologyeagerlystrove
to assimilateitself into Historyof Science,a move madeeasierby the fact that most of
those workingin the areawerepsychologists,not historiansof science.
Such an approach, however, begs some central questions and prevents some
genuinelyinterestingandveryimportantissuesfrombeingconfronted.Foremostamong
these begged questions is the assumptionthat the history of Psychologyshould be
interpretedin the orthodox termsof currenthistoryand philosophyof science,that it
presents,in principle,no uniqueor specialproblems.Surelywe would be betteradvised
initially to explore the applicabilityof such conceptualframeworksto Psychologyas
criticallyas possible.The statusof Psychologyis problematical, anditshistorymustboth
take account of, and explore, that fact. Instead,however,in the U.S.A.in particular,
History of Psychologyhas beenused primarilyas anotherarenain whichthe scientific
bona fidesof Psychologyhaveto be established.If a respectablesub-discipline of History
of SciencecalledHistoryof Psychologycan be created,the scientificstatusof Psychology
itself is therebyfurtherlegitimated.The characterof U.S.Historyof Psychologyhas thus
remained largely the same from Baldwin down to R. I. Watson'sown The Great
Psychologists: Aristotleto Freud(1963)"-the standardU.S.collegetext of the 1970s.
There is at heart a deeperproblemin the relationshipbetweenPsychologyand the
History of Sciencethan can be exploredhere. Psychologyclaimsto be the scienceof
behaviour;being scientificis a form of behaviourof the most potent kind, its history
involves such psychologicalmattersas the natureof concept-formationand concept-
change, communication,motivation and even perception.Hence, science is part of
Psychology'ssubjectmatter.Psychologyis superordinate.Butconversely,Psychology's
only claimto authorityin all this is that it is somehow'scientific'itself,thatit espousesa
superordinateideology of 'beingscientific'.Is Psychologylookingdownon 'Science',or
up to it? The resolutionof thisinterestingparadoxliesin thefuture,butit is importantto
bringit into the open. Whatcanbe doneis to illustratethedifficultyof applyingorthodox
History of Scienceconceptsto the historyof Psychologyby consideringthe widelyused
distinctionbetween 'internalist'and 'externalist'approachesto historiography.As few
historians of science would now use this distinction uncritically, since the
interpenetrationof the two perspectiveshas long been apparent,some justificationis
perhapsneededfor returningto it. Itwill be arguedherethatin thecaseof Psychologythe
internalist/externalistdistinctionfails at a logically more fundamentallevel than is
usually the case, and that the failure is particularlyinstructiveregardingboth the
characterof Psychologyitself and the theoreticalsignificanceof its history (both for
Psychologyand Historyof Sciencein general).
Considerfirstthe term'psychology'.Likemanydisciplinenames,it is usedto referto
both the discipline itself and its subject-matter.However, aside from Archimedes'
water-displacementproperties,we do not needto considera physicist'sphysicsin order
to understandtheir Physics,or a chemist'schemistry(was Dalton acid or alkaline?)to
gain insightinto his or herChemistry.Onepossibleexceptionraisedat the 1984 Summer

11 R.I. Watson, The GreatPsychologists:Aristotleto Freud,Philadelphiaand New York, 1963.


204 Graham Richards
meeting of the B.S.H.S.12 is De Vries's Genetics if, as was argued, one deep motive
behindhis theorizingwas to providea geneticexplanationof his homosexuality,thenhis
geneticsdid bearon his Genetics,butonly if his Geneticswas correct-which it was not.
This apparentlyflippantpoint highlightsthe fact that in Psychologythis irrelevanceof
the reflexivedoes not apply. We do indeed often want to ask preciselythese sort of
questions-how did J. B. Watson's psychology affect his Psychology?Or Freud's
Freud's?Burt'sBurt's?But this is only the startof our problem;considerthe following
passage:
Habitis ... theenormous fly-wheelof society,itsmostpreciousconservativeagent.Italoneis
whatkeepsus allwithintheboundsof ordinance, andsavesthechildren of fortunefromthe
enviousuprisings of thepoor.It aloneprevents thehardestandmostrepulsive walksof life
frombeingdesertedbythosewhotreadtherein.Itkeepsthefisherman anddeck-hand at sea
throughthewinter;itholdstheminerinhisdarkness, andnailsthecountryman tohislog-cabin
... itprotectsusfrominvasion bythenativesofthedesertandthefrozenzone.Itdoomsusallto
fightoutthebattleof lifeuponthelinesofournurture orourearlychoice,andtomakethebest
of a pursuitthatdisagrees,
becausethereis nootherforwhichwearefitted,andit is toolateto
beginagain.Itkeepsdifferent socialstratafrommixing....Itiswellfortheworldthatinmost
of us,bytheageof thirty,thecharacter hassetlikeplaster,
andwillneversoftenagain.13
This is WilliamJames,writingon Habit,in ThePrinciplesof Psychology.Letus now
identifysome of the rolesthispassagemighttake.To differentiatethe subjectmatterand
discipline senses of the word 'psychology',I will use an upper-caseP for the latter,
continuing the convention alreadyadopted in this paper. One is hamperedeven in
writing about this becauseorthographiccustomis to use lower-casefor both and hope
context will disambiguate.

1. WilliamJames'sPsychology
It is part of the corpus of work representingand containingJames'sprofessional
contributionto the discipline.As a part of his accountof habit, it is a sampleof his
Psychologyin the samesensethata passagefromLyell'sPrinciplesof Geologywould be
a sampleof Lyell'sGeology.

2. WilliamJames'spsychology
To those familiarwithJames,thispassageis instantlyrecognizableasJamesin one of his
depressed moods, giving free vent to this by conjuringup a semi-tragicvision of
humanityimpotentto alterits fateby a typicalJamesiantechniqueof cumulativelyciting
illustrativecases.It is a sampleof James'sown 'psychology'at work,evokingtheroleof a
psychologicalprinciple,habit,in humanlife.

12 Onno Meijer, 'De Vries on the Perfecting of Man'. Unpublished paper read at the B.S.H.S. meeting,
History of the Life Sciences Ilkley, 10 July 1984.
13 William James, The Principles of Psychology, 2 vols, New York and London, 1890, Vol. 1, p. 121.
History of Psychology 205

3. Late nineteenth-centuryU.S.Psychology
SinceJamesis a centralfigurein the foundingof this nationaltradition,the passage,like
one pluckedfrom any of his contemporaries-Dewey,Baldwin,G. StanleyHall-is late
nineteenth-centuryU.S. Psychology.More specifically,it belongsto a bodyof work on
the nature of habit to which others such as Thorndikecontributed,leadingon to the
development of theories of learning as a central feature of U.S. Psychologyover
succeedingdecades.

4. Late nineteenth-centuryU.S.psychology
We might see furtherin this passagesomethingtypicalof its periodand provenance,
indicativeof how Americansviewedtheworldandthekindof thingswhichpre-occupied
them-the industrialimageof the fly-wheel,the potentialprecariousness of socialorder,
the emphasisalreadyon 'our nurtureand our earlychoice',ratherthanheredityas the
basisfor societyandpersonality.If it is in somerespectsuntypical
of thisperiodandplace
in its down-beatmood, furtherconsiderationmightrevealit as relatedmorenarrowlyto
James's own social class position and social milieu, the last of the New England
Transcendentalistsfacingthe dawnof industrialtwentieth-century NorthAmerica.
Whileit is truethatanyhistoricaldocumentor artefactpermitsof analysisat a variety
of levels, what I wish to stresshereis that in this casethereis no 'subjectmatter'for the
passage beyondpsychologyitself-it is aboutpsychologyandit is psychology.It is also
Psychology.Whileit maybe arguedthatchoiceof levelof interpretation is determinedby
the historian'sown level of interest,my queryis that this is preciselythe problemfor a
historian of Psychology-which is the appropriatelevel of interest? The term
'Psychology'is troublesomein its ambiguity,a phraselike 'GermanPsychologyin the
1920s' is problematicalin a way that'Germanphysicsin the 1920s'is not. Subjectmatter
sense envelops disciplinesense. To some extent, the complexityof the situationwas
alreadyapparentto Boringwho wrote in the prefaceto the 1950 editionof his work:
I wanted... to speakof theroleof theZeitgeist andof thegreatmanin determining
progressin
science,andto show thatthesetwo viewsof thedevelopmentandemergenceof thoughtarenot
mutuallyexclusivebut obverseandreverseof everyhistoricalprocess.'4

But he does little with this awarenessof the interplayof externaland internalfactors
envisagingthis as something
other than point to Psychology'reflecting'the 'Zeitgeist',
external to Psychologysomehowexertingan influenceon it, determiningwhich ideas
will be receivedsympatheticallyandwhichwill be rejected.Titcheneris thussaidto have
swum against the Zeitgeist and Freud to have been its 'agent'. This is inadequate.
Psychology,the discipline,directlyemergesout of 'psychology'the subjectmatter.The
14 Boring, op. cit., p. xiii. That Boring conceives of the Zeitgeist as an external factor is evident in the
following passage:
Again and again it seems as if the crucial insight either does not come until the Zeitgeist has preparedfor
its inception, or, if it comes too soon for the Zeitgeist, then it does not register and is lost until it is
unearthed later when the culture is ready to accept it. p. 4.
See also pp. 3-5, 743-744.
206 Graham Richards
success of a psychologicaltheorymightwell be determinedby suchfactorsas whether
people 'see themselves'in it, whetherthe view of life containedin it correspondsto
everyoneelse's less articulatedfeelingsand perceptions,whether,in short,it meetsthe
needs which people at the time wish psychologicaltheoriesto meet. But these needs,
ranging across time and place from fortune-tellingto evaluationtechnologies,are not
external to Psychology, do not constitute an outside Zeitgeist. All psychologists, not just
the 'great' ones, are quite directly 'agents of the Zeitgeist', for their own individual
'psychologies' are, as it were, representative, and it is this which enables them to provide
Psychologies which meet such needs-needs which, along with novelists, politicians, film
directors and advertising executives, they in some sense see more clearly or feel more
deeply than others.
Perspectives which in other disciplines might be considered as straightforwardly
'externalist', such as the psychological roots of Madame Curie's obsessional
singlemindedness, or the kinds of tie-up between palaeontology and changing attitudes
towards scientific professionalism dealt with in Desmond's Archetypes and Ancestors,15
cannot be segregated out in the case of Psychology.
The status of past Psychological work has a characterquite different from the status
of past work in other disciplines, for it can always be reconstruedas subject matter data.
Psychology has a problem of sampling. Other disciplines can generally assume that the
properties of their subject matters do not change over time and space; an absorption line
at 7699 Angstroms indicates the presence of potassium whether the source is ten feet or
ten million light years away. On this assumption the physical sciences are based, and
achievement of this insight was crucial in establishing the scientific cosmology.
Psychology can make no such assumption. We do not know which psychological
phenomena are invariable and which are not. Perhaps they are all plastic. They are
certainly not all constant across time and place. Perhapstemperamenthas always ranged
from happy to miserable, lazy to diligent and responsible to negligent from the Cro-
Magnons to California, but some quite basic processes like perception and memory
could well vary considerably (for example, the differing roles of memory in pre-literate
and literate societies). The History of Psychology might then be seen as a way of
extending our sampling. One instance of this is the study of 'conformity'.
In the late 1940s, in a curious counterpoint to Orwell's Winston Smith seeing that
2+2 could equal 5, Solomon Asch, an exiled German Jewish social psychologist,
undertook some experiments on conformity in which it was shown that subjects could be
got to 'see' the longer of two lines as the shorter. This was done by placing them in a room
full of confederates of the Experimenterwho had been instructedto report the obviously
erroneous perception. Under this pressure about a third of the subjects caved in.'6 For
years, this was ritually cited in Social Psychology textbooks as proof of the power of

15 A. Desmond, Archetypes and Ancestors, London, 1982.


16 Solomon E. Asch, Social Psychology, New Jersey, 1952, chapter 16; also his 'Effectsof group pressure
upon the modification and distortion of judgment'. In: H. Guetikow (ed.), Groups, Leadership and Men,
Pittsburg, 1951.
History of Psychology 207

conformity. Recently, Perrin and Spencer17 have failed to replicate the finding, thereby
stimulating a re-examination of the whole topic. It is now clear that in order to
understand Asch's results, you have to reconstruct the entire historical setting of high-
status European professors vis-a-vis earnest, respectful, young U.S. college students in a
culture where conformity was a widespread pre-occupation of science-fiction writers,
film-makers, folk-singers and social commentators generally. The Asch experiments are
evidence of a particularly fine-grained kind of the nature of U.S. psychology at that time.
It was a highly conformist culture-so much so that a third of college students would
agree under fairly moderate group pressure that the longer of two lines was the shorter.
His results were not wrong. Failure to replicate does not, as in other disciplines, mean
that we have to re-examine the original methods and procedures until we have diagnosed
a mistake (although, of course, failure to replicate a Psychological experiment can have
this conventional implication). The further dimension to be stressed, however, is that
Asch's experiments were not separate from the phenomenon they were studying-they
were themselves part of it, one further level of expression of the general cultural
pre-occupation with conformity, just as later U.S. Social Psychological work on pre-
judice and the roots of racism was part and parcel of the wider civil rights movement. We
cannot, even in principle, demarcate 'externalist' influences on Asch's work from some
'internalist' perspective dealing with the history of the study of 'conformity' as a topic for
research beyond the immediate 'external' context in which the research is being con-
ducted. Asch was not 'reflecting' the Zeitgeist, he was part of it. This is admittedly an
'easy case': animal learning or psychophysics are clearly closer to conventional science;
my present aim is only to insist that we cannot prejudge the outcome of adopting a
similar approach to even these 'hard' areas of Psychology.
This perspective leads us to reconsider the nature of theoretical differences and
controversy in Psychology. To illustrate this, three cases will suffice. Firstly, the
'Behaviorism versus Gestalt' issue. This conflict is typically presented as a difference at
two levels, theoretical and methodological. The German Gestalt Psychologists preferred
a holistic approach and the American Behaviorists an atomistic, reductionist one.
Methodologically, the Behaviorists were hard-headed experimentalists concerned only
with overt behaviour, while Gestaltists were allegedly casual in their approach to
empirical research, relying on introspection and demonstrations ratherthan on rigorous
experiments. This is a caricature, but the point is that an orthodox 'internalist'English-
language account will typically present the issue as one of theories and methods in which
the result was a sort of 70-30 victory for the Behaviorists. I have long drawn my own
students' attention to two passages, one from J. B. Watson and the other from Kurt
Koffka, which I believe show the real nub of the issue to be one of differences in
'psychology' the subject matter rather than the technicalities of scientific procedure or
theoretical pitch; the iconoclastic, utopian, technologically optimistic J. B. Watson, from

17 S. Perrin and C. Spencer, 'Independence or conformity in the Asch experiment as a reflectionof cultural
and situational factors', British Journal of SocialPsychology, (1981), 20, pp. 205-209. Things have now been
given a further twist by a reported finding of a post-Falklands War increase in British conformity; Nigel
Nicholson, Steven G. Cole and Thomas Rocklin, 'Conformity in the Asch situation: a comparison between
contemporary British and US university students', ibid., (1985), 24, pp. 59-63.
208 Graham Richards
the Southern Baptist belt, versus the cultured Jewish European intelligentsia battling
with the forces of philistinism. Here is Koffka:18
Meaningand significancecould haveno possibleplacein sucha molecularsystem;Caesar's
crossingthe Rubicon:certainstimulus-response situations;Lutherat Worms:so manyothers;
Shakespearewriting 'Hamlet';Beethovencomposingthe Ninth Symphony;an Egyptian
sculptorcarvingthe bustof Nephretete,wouldallbe reducedto thestimulus-response schema.
... If psychologyis to be the scienceof behaviour,mustit not havea realplacefor Caesar,
Shakespeare,Beethoven,a place which gives to the behaviourof these men the same out-
standing and distinctiveposition . . . which they enjoy in the estimationof the ordinary
educatedpersonandthe historian?
And here is the last paragraph of Watson's Behaviorism,'9the Southern preaching style
ringing loud and clear:
I wish I could picturefor you what a richand wonderfulindividualwe shouldmakeof every
healthy child if only we could let it shapeitself properlyand then providefor it a universe
unshackledby legendaryfolk-loreof happeningsthousandsof yearsago: unhamperedby
disgracefulpoliticalhistory;free of foolish customsand conventionswhich have no signi-
ficancein themselves,yet whichhemtheindividualin liketautsteelbands.I amnot askinghere
for revolution;I am not askingpeopleto go out to someGod-forsaken place,forma colony,go
nakedand live a communallife,noram I askingfor a changeto a dietof rootsandherbs.I am
not askingfor 'freelove'. I am tryingto danglea stimulusin frontof you, a verbalstimulus
which,if actedupon,will graduallychangethisuniverse.Fortheuniversewillchangeif you try
to bringup your children,not in the freedomof the libertine,but a behavioristicfreedom-a
freedomwe cannotevenpicturein words,so littledo we knowof it. Willnot thesechildrenin
turn, with theirbetterways of livingand thinking,replaceus as societyandin turnbringup
theirchildrenin a stillmorescientificway, untiltheworldfinallybecomesa placefitforhuman
habitation?
The second area is Developmental or Child-Psychology. Here, though less obviously
polarized, there are several different 'psychologies' underlying the varieties of Psycho-
logical theory. One, traced in Ehrenreichand English'spolemical For Her Oum Good-
A Century of the Experts Advice to Mothers20flourishesin the U.S.A. from the turn of the
twentieth century until World War Two. Watson-as the above passage suggests
figures in this, although he is one among many. The basic image of the child is a Lockean
one, the child is infinitely malleable, and in order to create an ideal society and individual
happiness we need only train the child in the relevant virtues of self-discipline, hard
work, emotional self-control and so on. This will involve, of course, an assessment
technology for keeping track of the individual's progress and evaluating his or her needs.
In Europe, by contrast, different images prevail. Piaget, in Switzerland, is much more
evidently heir to a tradition that extends back to Rousseau and proceeds via Itard,
Pestalozzi, Froebel, the pioneers in subnormality treatment Guggenbuhl and Seguin, and
then more latterly, Preyer, Stern and Claparede. In this the child is seen as unfolding its
potential in a process of what Stern called 'wholistic self-development'21.The educator's
18 Kurt Koffka, The Principles of Gestalt Psychology, London, 1935, pp. 26-27.
19 J.B. Watson, Behaviorism, 1924, rep. New York, 1970 (7th edn.), pp. 303-304.
20 B. Ehrenreich and D. English, For Her Own Good-A Centuryof the ExpertsAdvice to Mothers, New
York, 1979.
21 Wiliam Stern, Psychology of Early Childhood up to the Sixth YearofAge, (tr.Anna Barwellof 3rd edn.),
London, 1924, chapter 3.
History of Psychology 209
job is akin to a gardener's,helpingthe childto blossom,developits talents,copewith its
deficienciesand so forth. So the Piagetianmodelof childdevelopmenttakesa radically
differentdirectionto thatof theU.S.developmental psychologists.Butthedifferenceis not
about the 'facts'of childdevelopment,or even aboutthe explanationof thesefacts,it is
rooted in prior assumptionsabout what childrenare and how to relate to them, a
differencespanningboth of our sensesof the word 'psychology'.In Italyand Britain,
furthervariationsmightbe detectedin thepsychologicaldimensionof ChildPsychology.
Maria Montessori,for instance,drew on Lombroso'sphysiognomicalanthropology,22
while in Britainpsychometricapproachesat the level of method combinewith more
heredity-orientedtheoreticalmodelsstemmingfromthe Galtonand Sullytraditionand
typifiedin Burt;but a strongpsychoanalyticstrandis presenttoo, largelyabsentat this
time in the U.S.A. National differencesin Psychologicaltheorizingand methodology,
and in preferredsubjectareas,emergefrom and expresswith peculiarclaritythe actual
psychological differencesbetweenthesesocieties.
Thirdly,no generalpaperon the Historyof Psychologywouldbe completewithouta
Galton quote. Here he is in Alice-in-Wonderland territoryin the researchon imagery
reported in Inquiries into Human Faculty.23 Upper class Victorian Psychology and
psychology fuse as he recordswith deadpanstraightnessa letterfromMiss Stones,'the
head teacherof a high school for girls'.Shetellshim:
Thevowelsof theEnglishlanguage alwaysappearto me,whenI thinkof them,aspossessing
certaincolours,ofwhichIenclosea diagram.
Consonants whenthought ofbythemselves areof
a purplishblack;butwhenIthinkof a wholeword,thecolouroftheconsonants tendstowards
the colourof the vowels.Forexample,in the word'Tuesday', whenI thinkof eachletter
separatelytheconsonantsarepurplish black,u is a lightdovecolour,e is a paleemerald green,
anda is yellow;butwhenIthinkof thewholewordtogether, thefirstpartisa lightgray-green,
andthelatterpartyellow.
And so she goes on, adding:
Perhapsyou maybe interestedin thefollowingaccountfrommysisterof hervisualpeculi-
arities:'WhenI thinkof WednesdayI seea kindof ovalflatwashof yellowemerald
green;for
Thursday, a brown-red polygon;anda dullyellowsausageforFriday'.
irregular
It is hard to think of anotherculturalcontext in which head teachersof girls high
schools would have so happilyrevelledin suchpsychologicalself-disclosure.A counter-
point to this is providedby the Nazi PsychologistJaensch'sidentificationof the S andJ
personality types,24a mirrorimage of what later became called Authoritarianand
Democratic types in post-WorldWar Two Social Psychology.The AryanJ-type is
firm-willed, disciplined, obedient, not given to fantasy, while S-typesare slovenly,
muddled,dreamyand weak, and especiallyproneto synaestheticimagery.The ironyis
that Nazi concernwith degenerationand racialpurity,expressedhere,derived,albeit
only partially, from Galton's own Eugenic concerns, and that within Psychology,
22 Maria Montessori, Pedagogical Anthropology, (tr. FederickTaber Cooper), London, 1913.
23 Francis Galton, Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development, London, 1883, pp. 107-108
(Everyman's Library edition, 1907).
24 E.R. Jaensch, Der Gegentypus, Leipzig, 1938; see Roger Brown: Social Psychology, New York and
London, 1965, pp. 477-478.
210 Graham Richards
Jaensch, in the 1930s, was one of the few people still concernedwith visualimagery,
introducedas a topicby Galtonin theworkjustquoted(althoughthetopiclaterrevived).
Thus, the same psychologicalphenomenon,the same researchtopic, can changeits
significancefor Psychologydramaticallyas a resultof the changesin the psychological
environmentin which it is beingconducted.
Past Psychologyis relevantto currentPsychology,then,in two ways: (a) the observ-
ations of past Psychologistsmight have value akin to that of earlierastronomicalor
meteorological observations for current astronomersand climatologists;Asch's
conformityexperiments,for example,give us a 'measure'of the conformitylevelat the
time they were conducted,thus our samplingrangeis temporallyextended;(b) more
profoundly,the work of pastPsychologistsitselfembodiespastpsychologyin the subject
mattersense, becomingpsychologicaldata in its own right.Bothof these,butespecially
the latter, rule out in advancethe sustainabilityof the internal/external
distinction,not
becausethey interactin suchcomplexways but becausetheycannotbe differentiatedin
the first place. There are not 'Zeitgeists' and 'Great Men', only psychological levels, one
of which is formallydignifiedas Psychology.
A finalissue to be raised,if my positionis not to be misunderstood, is thatconceptual
changein Psychologynotoriouslytracksscientificconceptualchangesandtechnological
innovationsin the societiesin whichit is conducted.My own view is thatpsychological
concepts of any kind-Psychological Languagewe mightcallit-can only be generated
by reflexiveapplicationsof what we could call WorldLanguageor WorldConcepts.
Both etymologyand logic can be invokedto justifythis contention,whichmustbe left
unexplored here. It sufficesto say that if this view is correct,the situationwould be
somewhatless relativisticandfissiparousthanthepicturepaintedin thispapersuggests.
Yet it also once more puts the Psychology-Sciencerelationshipcentre-stage,for the
Historyof Psychologybecomesthe historyof the explorationof thereflexivesignificance
of, among other things, scientific innovations as images of psychological phenomena.
There have been a few recent papers bearing on this (e.g. Danziger's 'Origins of the
schema of stimulated motion: towards a pre-history of modem psychology'25 and
Kassler's 'Man-a musical instrument: models of the brain and mental functioning
before the computer'26).But in the light of the central argumentbeing put forward in the
present paper, we need to extend the model in such a way that the History of Science in
general can be seen in relation to the psychological consequences of scientific ideas and
technological innovations for the societies in which they occur, these in turn fuelling the
formally constituted enterprise of 'Psychology', or its informal precursors.
In understanding much modern U.S. Psychology, it is essential to grasp the centrality
of the psychological preoccupation with processes of opinion formation and change,
feed-back regarding attitudes and so forth. Whether in marketing and presidential
elections, campaigns for social change or the electing of class representativesin grade
school, rating and evaluating others, trying to find out how they rate and evaluate you, is

25 Kurt Danziger, 'Origins of the schema of stimulated motion: towards a pre-history of modern
psychology'. History of Science, (1983), xxi, pp. 183-210.
26 Jamie C. Kassler, 'Man-a musical instrument: models of the brain and mental functioning before the
computer', History of Science, (1984), xxii, pp. 59-92.
History of Psychology 211

as DavidRiesmann
a constantfeatureof U.S. psychologicallife, its 'Other-directedness'
once called it.27And it is a featuretoo of U.S. Historyof Psychologyas R. I. Watson's
bibliographytestifies.At thispoint the circleis complete.Whatclearerillustrationof the
culturalembeddednessof Psychology,of the fusionof internalandexternalperspectives,
and of Psychology and psychology,than the fact that the centralreferencetext for the
sub-disciplineconcernedwith its historyshouldso patentlyderiveits characterfromthe
specific, time and place-bound,assumptionsand orientationsof its authorand the
psychologies both R. I. Watsonandthe U.S.A.in theearly1970s?Anothercomponentof
this was still, of course, that endemic psychological need for parity of scientific status
with the physical sciences mentioned earlier.
I will end by summarizing the argument which I have tried to put forward in the body
of this paper.

1. To assume in advance that History of Psychology is just one more branch of History of
Science is premature and question-begging.
2. As an example of this, the distinction between internalist and externalist accounts
cannot be sustained in the History of Psychology even in principle because (a)
Psychological work can only be understood as a product of the individualpsychologist's
psychology and those of his or her class and culture at the time their work was being
done; (b) the inherent ambiguity of the term psychology as subjectmatter and discipline
label points to a genuine ambiguity in the status of Psychological work as both study of
the subject matter and data in its own right; and (c) History of Psychology thus
continually shifts from being history of the discipline to being the history of its subject
matter, which is in the final analysis, the 'external' (or part of the 'external') with which
externalists are concerned when considering other disciplines.
3. At a less abstract level, History of Psychology may be seen as of continual theoretical
relevance to present Psychology as a way of increasing its sampling range, past
Psychological experiments and investigations retaining an intrinsic current value in a
way that is rare in other disciplines and never normal except perhaps in Astronomy and
the palaeo-disciplines of Archaeology, Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology.
4. History of Psychology would thus be advised to explore and articulate the numerous
ambiguities and paradoxes of its situation vis-a-vis both History and Philosophy of
Science, rather than pretend for the sake of respectabilitythat they do not exist. The other
branches of History of Science will certainly not respect us if we fail to take these
problems into account, and might find us a lot more interesting and relevant if we do.

So 'Of what is History of Psychology a History?' To the present author it seems


increasingly likely that History of Psychology, the discipline, is History of psychology,
the subject matter, at one remove, but if we decided to shift to psychology, the subject
matter, directly, then of what would History of psychology not be a History?

27 David Riesmann, The Lonely Crowd; A Study of the Changing American Character,New Haven, CT,
1969.