...looks back

Peter Lamont on how early psychologists turned to the grand wizards in an effort to transform illusions into a reality

Psychologists are supposed to be experts on how people think and behave. Yet magicians have always displayed a more wonderful ability to direct thoughts and actions. Thus, every now and again...

David K. Robinson on an important meeting of minds at Leipzig University

In terms of personalities and psychological method, Gustav Theodor Fechner (1801–1887) occupies a critical position in the history of psychology, between the pioneering sensory physiologist, Ernst...

Elizabeth Valentine profiles three women at the forefront of the development of the discipline

What role did women play in the early days of psychology in Britain? Did they conform to the female stereotype of ‘caring’ practitioners rather than to the male stereotype of unemotional...

Daniel N. Robinson on the 150th anniversary of a text that many consider to be the first in experimental psychology

Fechner’s attempt to place psychology on the firm foundations of experimental science was undertaken in a sceptical intellectual atmosphere still philosophically dominated by post-Kantian thought...

Geoff Bunn introduces a special issue marking the 150th Anniversary of Gustav Fechner’s Elements of Psychophysics

Considered by some psychologists to be the ‘founding father’ of experimental psychology, Gustav Fechner (1801–1887) was, to some extent, an uncompromisingly hard-nosed materialist. Yet there was...

Ludy T. Benjamin Jr on a fascinating trial and a psychologist’s role in it

Mark M. Smith on when ‘looking’ back makes less sense

Can we really understand how people in the past perceived their world in sensory terms? Can we ever reach an understanding of what, say, 18th-century Australia sounded like? What smells meant to...

Nestar Russell explores the early evolution of Stanley Milgram’s first official obedience to authority experiment

Ron Roberts on the continuing relevance of Thomas Szasz, now in his 90th year

Arthur I. Miller on a meeting of minds between Carl Jung and the physicist Wolfgang Pauli

Hazel Stevenson on Sylvia Downs’ lifetime of achievement in occupational psychology

In November 2009 Sylvia Downs received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Division of Occupational Psychology, recognising her outstanding contribution to our profession. As this 83-year-old...

Joan Bliss on her memories of working with the great Swiss psychologist

Larry Weiskrantz recalls the conditions surrounding a rare ‘discovery’ in psychology – response to visual stimuli without conscious perception

It is difficult to pinpoint just when the idea of blindsight first emerged, although, as is perhaps usual in such matters, there are a number of claimants. But we can date the year when the word ‘...

Peter Garrard on the uses of retrospective language analysis

Roger Smith argues that the historical story is not dispensable – it is key to being a good scientist

Henry Ford supposedly snapped: ‘History is more or less bunk.’ Ford, I think, meant that if we pay history much attention, it holds us back. Many scientists agree: better to construct knowledge,...

A peculiarly influential and controversial 1920s employment test, from Thomas Edison, by Paul Collins; plus an account of how it felt to resist Milgram.

Dean Keith Simonton examines biographical influences on composition and eminence

Chris Lerwill digs into the archives, 200 years after Darwin’s birth and 150 after the publication of On the Origin of Species

Charles Darwin’s various private jottings, never intended for publication but now online at www.darwin-online.org.uk, indicate an obsession with...

Barbara Tizard on John Bowlby – the origins of his ideas, their impact and his often underestimated willingness to revise them

John Bowlby (1907–1990) first attained fame – some would say notoriety – in 1951, with the publication of his monograph Maternal Care and Mental Health. In it he presented evidence that maternal...

Is the ‘cognitive revolution’ a myth? Sandy Hobbs thinks the term is inaccurate and unhelpful; Jeremy Trevelyan Burman disagrees

Uta Frith on a couple of colourful characters – Neil O’Connor and Beate Hermelin; and Julie Perks on the Hipp Chronoscope

Everyone knows that London in the Sixties was a cool place to be, but few know that this was true not only for music, art and fashion, but also for psychology. At the Institute of Psychiatry you...

John Waller on how distress and pious fear have led to bizarre outbreaks across the ages.

The year was 1374. In dozens of medieval towns scattered along the valley of the River Rhine hundreds of people were seized by an agonising compulsion to dance. Scarcely pausing to rest or eat,...

Gustav Jahoda on the German philosopher and psychologist Johann Friedrich Herbart, and his view of the mind as a starry sky of Newtonian forces

Until the Second World War historians of psychology everywhere had high praise for Johann Friedrich Herbart (1776–1841), describing him as ‘a great thinker’ and his ideas as ‘epoch-making’. Since...

Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr revisits the promises of British practical psychology

One hundred and fifty years ago this month, the grand new bell – a mind-boggling 16 tons in weight – rang out across London from the Great Clock of Westminster for the first time on 31 May 1859....

Peter Lamont with a brief history of extraordinary psychological feats, and their relevance for our concept of psychology and science

Derren Brown is a psychological illusionist. Far from attributing his ‘mind control’ feats to paranormal abilities, he expressly rejects the existence of paranormal phenomena, and has suggested (...