Internationalizing the History of Psychology
Adrian C.Brock (Ed.)
New York: New York University Press; 2006;
Hb £34.95 (ISBN 0 8147 9944 2)
Reviewed by Toni Brennan
PLEASE refer to your handbook on how to reference in APA format. Hands up all lecturers and tutors who have had to write this comment on hundreds of essays and reports. If, on the one hand, standardisation has its advantages, we must not forget that the American Psychological Association exports far more than referencing style – and therein lies the focus of this book edited by Adrian Brock. The introduction traces how American psychology has legitimised itself to achieve the status of unspoken norm, how ‘the history of American psychology’ has become conflated and synonymous with the history of psychology as a whole, thereby overwriting or ignoring other narratives. European psychologists are considered only if they had an impact on American psychology, and even then, according to (unspoken) selective criteria: for example, Kurt Lewin’s work prior to his emigration to the United States is virtually unknown but to specialised academics. As to Asia, Africa, Latin America and Oceania, they do not exist on the map of this ‘official’, North-American centred history of psychology.The strength of the book is that, appearances to the contrary, it does not engage in cheap America-bashing, but charts, we could say with Foucault, the genealogy of a situation, and goes beyond the ultimately patronising ‘let’s give a voice to the underdog’.
These essays written specially for this book by, inter alia, Kurt Danziger, Ruben Ardila, Aydan Gulerce and Irmgard Staeuble, offer perspectives on hitherto off-the-map psychologies, as developed in China, India, Argentina and Turkey, as well as interrogating ‘Western’ psychology. It is a very interesting journey that addresses such cogent issues inherent in ‘internationalizing’ the history of psychology as confronting the possibility that ‘psychology’ may mean different things in different places and at different times and scrutinising the subtle nuances of (cultural) colonialism. A thought-provoking book!
Toni Brennan is in the Department of Psychology, School of Human Sciences, University of Surrey.
The Overweight Patient: A Psychological Approach to Understanding and Working with Obesity
London: Jessica Kingsley; 2006;
Pb £19.99 (ISBN 978 1 84310 366 0);
Reviewed by Alison White
THE issue of obesity has been a contentious topic in the media of late. Kathy Leach provides a thoughtful, well-written text that addresses the ‘great weight debate’ in an engaging and compassionate way. Initially, Leach provides a useful context for understanding and working with the clinical issue of obesity. Leach’s text sensitively explores the underlying behaviours and beliefs which may contribute to obesity, including parental influences, fear of deprivation, addiction, psychological needs and sexual fears. Leach addressed two important clinical concerns: First she makes a useful distinction between the need to eat excess food and the need to maintain a large body size. Secondly, she explores the reasons for both long-term obesity and short-term weight gain.
The main body of the book focuses on clinical work, offering insightful ways of thinking about and working with obese individuals. The text is punctuated with some very useful case examples and transcripts which guide and enlighten the readers thinking.
Having never used transactional analysis in my clinical practice, I felt that Leach provided an excellent, clear and accessible introduction to basic transactional analysis theory and principles, providing useful examples of how this form of therapy can be particularly useful and effective when working with people who overeat.
In summary, this book provides an important contribution in helping clinicians and clients understand
the psychological aspects that prevent people from losing weight or maintaining weight loss. It is a ‘must-have’ text for anybody working with this client
Dr Alison White is a clinical psychologist at Llanarth Court Hospital, South Wales.
A short history of some of it
A Brief History of Modern Psychology
Oxford: Blackwell; 2007;
Pb £17.99 (ISBN 1 4051 3206)
Reviewed by Sharyn Smith
I WAS delighted to receive this book for review, as its title promised a concise, coherent and contextualised description of contemporary psychology. However, there is a catch here: Benjamin has omitted to place ‘American’ within the title. Much of the first half of the book detailed the chronology of the development of academic psychology in North America. Benjamin enthusiastically traces the development of the first psychology laboratories in North America back to German scientific pioneers such as Wundt and Ebbinghaus. My interest began to wane as I waded through chapters 4 and 5, which championed the eminent American psychologists who were fundamental to the history of modern American psychology with little reference to what was happening on the European stage. However, the promise of later chapters, in particular chapter 7 ‘Psychoanalysis’ kept me going. I was disappointed that the first two pages of said chapter described an old and curmudgeonly Freud obstinately refusing to leave Vienna despite the Nazi threat, who was eventually assisted by the US State Department on the orders of Roosevelt. However from this point on the book became more interesting as it examined the leading psychological theories of the 20th century and their influences.
Benjamin does not claim to provide a comprehensive and detailed description of the development of modern psychology. He does achieve what he set out to do, namely to provide the reader with the knowledge to make sense of ‘psychology’s place in a larger story’ whilst successfully separating the popular psychology of the last two centuries from academic, applied and scientific psychology.
This book would be a valuable addition to the library of any psychology undergraduate who is keen to learn the basic tenets of the most influential academic psychological theories and theorists of the 19th and 20th centuries and how they fit together in a history of psychology.
Sharyn Smith is an educational psychologist in West Sussex.
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