Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Factoids in the History of Psychology

"Just the facts, Ma'am."
            -- Sergeant Joe Friday

I've taught History of Psychology on a few occasions, and in covering each major figure I liked to throw in a few anecdotes:

1.  René Descartes had a fetish for cross-eyed women.

2.  Immanuel Kant was so punctual that burghers in Konigsburg used to be able to set their clocks by when he passed.  They were too lazy to consult

3.  B. F. Skinner experimented with the possible use of pigeons to guide missles.

4.  John Mark Baldwin and John B. Watson were involved in sex scandals as department heads at John Hopkins University. Both were fired.

5.  Henry H. Goddard climbed the Matterhorn.

6.  G. S. Hall originally studied for the ministry; but when he gave a trial sermon, the President of Union Theological Seminary, instead of critiquing it, knelt and prayed for his soul.

7.  William James starting writing The Principles of Psychology while on his honeymoon.  Mrs. James's opinion was not recorded.

8.  Johann von Goethe wrote on color vision.

9.  G. T. Fechner wrote on the comparative anatomy of angels, the mental life or plants, and life in the hereafter.

10.  Wolfgang Köhler was a spy for the Imperial German Navy.  He later fled the Nazis.

11.  Sigmund Freud, while serving in the Austro-Hungarian Army, was tossed in the brig for going AWOL.  He also dabbled in cocaine.

12.  Arthur Schopenhauer was a pessimistic mysogynist drunk who used to abuse tavern girls.
13.  Ivan P. Pavlov was rolled in Grand Central Station when he visited New York City.  He never went back, demonstrating one-trial conditioning.

14.  James McKeen Cattell named his daughter Psyche.

15.  Jean Charcot's son Jean-Baptiste was an important Antarctic explorer in the first decade of the twentieth century.

16.  Konrad Lorenz was briefly a member of the Nazi party.  He was a prisoner of war of the Russians.  Maybe that's where his goslings learned to goose-step.

17.  John Watson's father ran off with two Indian girls.  John remained sympathetic to Custer for the rest of his life.

18.  B. F. Skinner trained pigeons to guide missles toward targets.

19.  Blaise Pascal is famous for Pascal's Wager. However, he would not have enjoyed a trip to Monte Carlo or Tunica because he belonged to a group of religious nutters.  Being French, he might have enjoyed Paula Deen's recipes at Tunica, however.

20.  William James never forgave James Cattell for giving the very verbose Wilhelm Wundt a typewriter.  Wundt wrote Volkerpsychologie, which went into ten volumes.

21.  Hugo Eckener, a Ph.D. under Wilhelm Wundt, was better known as the pilot of the Graf Zeppelin.

22.  G. T. Fechner's father was a free-thinking Lutheran pastor.  He broke tradition by preaching without wearing a wig, and placed a lightning rod on the church, which was taken as insufficient faith in Divine Providence.

23.  Richard von Krafft-Ebing, author of Psychopathia Sexualis, coined the term masochism after the soft-corn porn writer Ritter Leopold von Sacher-Masoch and sadism after the hard-core porn writer the Marquis de Sade.  One wonders about his reading habits.

24.  Émile Coué developed autosuggestion: a patient's mental state could amplify the effectiveness of a medicine.  He was originally a pharmacist from Troyes.  Hopefully, not a homeopath.

25.  Edward Bradford Titchener lectured while wearing an Oxford gown.

26.  Gertrude Stein was a student of William James who did research on normal motor automatism that was published in Psychological Review.

27.  John Watson and Harvey Carr did the Kerplunk experiment: they trained rats to perform a complex sex of voluntary motor behaviors until they became automatic or reflexive in nature.

28.  William MacDougall hired Joseph Banks Rhine to establish a Parapsychology Laborory at Duke University.

29.  Hermann Ebbinghaus reported his research in four sections: the intruduction, the method, the results, and discussion.  The clarity that it produced led colleagues to adopt it widely as the standard for reporting research findings.

30.  Franz Brentano was originally a priest; but he resigned over the doctrine of Papal Infallibility.  He later married a former nun.

These are examples of factoids in the history of psychology.  Are they part of the story, or distractors?  I'm not sure in all cases, but I found them interesting.

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