The Psychologist... what's in a name?

Julie Perks with some insights from the history of a different ‘Psychologist’ magazine. Has popular psychology changed?Plus 'A hotbed of intelligence': Ian J. Deary and Martin Lawn reconstruct a 'Scottish School of Educational Research' 1925-1950.

Some Society members will recall that the first issue of The Psychologist from the British Psychological Society ‘metamorphosed’ from the Bulletin in January 1988. According to Elizabeth Mapstone, the then managing editor, the name The Psychologist had been chosen in order to reflect a principal aim, to ‘disseminate accurate knowledge of human psychology in society generally’ (p.3).

The Quarterly Bulletin had been launched 40 years earlier and had gradually developed into the monthly Bulletin. Fredrick Laws, in his introductory editorial, in July 1948, expressed the need for the publication to promote contact between psychologists working in different fields of the discipline, who, he said, were ‘as ignorant as the general public of new developments outside their professional range of interest’ (Laws, 1948, p.1).

In 1948 the Society could not have chosen to call their publication The Psychologist, because that title was already being used by another magazine. Aimed directly at the ‘ignorant’ general public to whom Laws was referring, it was, by then, in its 16th volume.
Anyone who recalls 1933 might more readily remember Hitler becoming Chancellor of Germany and Wertheimer’s flight from that country than the appearance of a small orange and black magazine called The Psychologist in bookshops and on book stalls. However, 75 years ago that periodical, which was both edited and published by Frank Allard, appeared for the first time.

Allard often introduced his monthly publication by extolling the virtues of continuous self-improvement and the value of a cheerful disposition. The original The Psychologist was a product of popular, or practical, psychology.

Practical psychology, according to Thomson (2006), is an amalgamation of beliefs incorporating spiritualism, Freudian psychology and Coué’s system of ‘autosuggestion’. This is well illustrated in an article entitled ‘How to read The Psychologist’, by Dr R. Macdonald Ladell, that appeared in the November issue in 1948. Ladell suggested that the act of reading The Psychologist should be similar to that of listening to a sermon, and he warned the reader of the many ways in which they might unconsciously resist the beneficial changes that can be gained from reading The Psychologist. Ladell couched much of what he said in the language of psychoanalysis. He used the term ‘projection’ to describe what was happening when someone recognised descriptions of other peoples failings, rather than their own faults, when reading. A reader who considered his literary choices had been directed by a sense of duty was, by contrast, ‘repressed’. ‘Above all’, warned Ladell, if he [the reader] suffers from neurosis he must try and see just what the neurosis means to him in terms of value. That is best done by thinking along the lines of ‘what should I do if only I didn’t have this trouble?’(p.7)

Pre-war editions of The Psychologist appear to have attracted brief articles by a surprising number of Freud’s former disciples. Jung seems to have contributed, and Adler, whose May 1936 article, on ‘Understanding Human Nature’, was followed by a list of venues he would be speaking at during his lecture tour, of this country, that year. However, the most surprising attribution was Wilhelm Stekel (1937). Stekel, according to Jones (1955), was considered to have so little scientific or moral integrity that Freud had suggested he lacked an ego ideal. Stekel’s article ended with the words. Only he is able to find lasting happiness who learns to adjust himself to reality at every step and who thus overcomes the handicap of narrow selfish cravings. (p.35)
Stekel committed suicide in 1940.

The tone of the original the other The Psychologist was, self-consciously, optimistic. By 1939 most people, not only in Europe but as far afield as the USA, were acknowledging the probability of war. In March that year Readers Digest carried three articles speculating about war’s likely catalyst, but The Psychologist not only contained no features on the possibility of a war, it proffered no acknowledgement of the contingency. In fact the author of a letter included in the March 1939 ‘Questions and Answers’ page, from a woman concerned about the likelihood of her fiancé being sent to war, was given the title ‘War phobia’. Its writer was told to, pull yourself together. Trust providence, learn to relax, practise cheerfulness (p.11).  

The first The Psychologist was in existence until at least November 1977, but when exactly it disappeared remains a mystery. However, practical psychology magazines are still popular and continue to deal with the same types of issues in a very similar way. Feeling tired all the time is a frequent topic for articles and copies of The Psychologist (1960) and Psychologies (2007) offer the same remedy. Tired readers, in both cases, are advised to get an outside interest.

- Julie Perks is at Staffordshire University and is the Associate Editor for this section. [email protected]

A hotbed of intelligence

Ian J. Deary and Martin Lawn reconstruct a ‘Scottish School of Educational Research’ 1925–1950

Scotland is the only country ever to test the IQ of the whole nation. In fact, it did it twice, and this year is the 75th anniversary of the report from the Scottish Mental Survey of 1932 (SCRE, 1933). On 1 June 1932 almost everyone born in 1921 was tested. On 4 June 1947 it was the turn of almost everyone born in 1936.
The Scottish Mental Surveys were conducted by the Scottish Council for Research in Education. They were done at a time when the small nation had a leading edge in research in education, and in intelligence testing and theory in particular. The Mental Surveys were just one aspect of a peculiarly influential and productive research network. Why was Scotland such a hotbed of intelligence in the second quarter of the 20th century?
We are seeking assistance to reconstruct this once-famous network of education and intelligence researchers in Scotland. This is a collaboration between the psychology of intelligence, the history of education, and an expert on psychometrics statistics and their history (Professor David Bartholomew from the London School of Economics). Our research project, funded by the ESRC until 2009, is exploring the idea of a ‘Scottish School of Educational Research’ that existed between 1925 and 1950 and had profound and enduring influences on world educational and psychological research, especially research on intelligence and intelligence testing and theory. This was an astonishingly rich research period of intellectual and practical activity, focused on questions about intelligence and its place in education.
It is odd that, until now, this rich period of Scottish theoretical, methodological and policy innovation, in psychology and educational research, has not existed as a subject of study in itself. It is a substantial historical-scientific phenomenon that has never been recognised as an entity, because its elements have never been brought together. With the help of newly discovered books, ledgers, pamphlets, tests, files, correspondence, images and objects, in this country and abroad, we are reconstructing the idea of a distinctive ‘Scottish School’. We have also interviewed surviving researchers and some research support staff from the period. The British Psychological Society’s archives in London have contributed to the project.
In particular, the project will analyse the influence of Professor Sir Godfrey Thomson (see photo). He was Principal of Moray House College of Education and Bell Professor of Education in the University of Edinburgh for 25 years in the last century. An archive of his work and papers is being constructed. He was one of the principal nodal characters in this network of Scottish educational research, and in intelligence theory and its applications. Also important were Robert Rusk and William Boyd in Glasgow, and William McClelland in Dundee. In addition, during this period, John Raven and Philip Vernon were conducting intelligence research in Scotland.
We would like to hear from anyone who has materials or recollections of Godfrey Thomson and his other colleagues in the Scottish Council for Research in Education networks, or more broadly in the field of intelligence research. Please get in touch at [email protected], or write to Ian Deary in Psychology, 7 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9JZ.

Scottish Council for Research in Education (SCRE). (1933). The intelligence of Scottish children: A national survey of an age-group. London: University of London Press.

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