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Wrapping Up & Drawing Conclusions

November 18: Anti-Psychiatry

Read/Watch:


November 20: Looking back over the semester

If you have a few minutes, look back over the readings, units, what we’ve talked about and think about what you found most interesting/helpful and the least interesting/helpful.

Anti-Psychiatry

November 18: Sanity in an Insane World

Read:

Ask:

  • Szasz and Laing are both part of the anti-psychiatry movement; are their arguments about psychiatry similar or different?
  • Are you persuaded by either or both of them? Why or why not?
  • What historical practices or circumstances were they responding to? Do those things still exist? In other words, did anti-psychiatry make sense in its time period and does it still make sense now?
  • What are Szasz and Laing trying to reform? If psychologists and psychiatrists are typically trying to reform the individual, are anti-psychiatrists doing something different?


November 20: Diagnosing Normal

Read:

Ask:

Psychology in/and/as Politics

October 14: Fascism

Read:

Optional:

Ask:

  • Were Nazi leaders mentally ill? If not, were they mentally healthy? Is there a third category between the two, or illnesses that we can’t diagnose?
  • What about other kinds of bad people (school shooters, terrorists, serial killers, racists, etc.)?
  • What are the benefits or consequences of labeling bad behavior as an illness? In other words, what does calling a fascist ill do?
  • Is there a gap between psychological science and common sense understandings of illness and health? If so, why and can it be bridged?

October 16: Draeptomania, Dysaethesia aethiopica & Race as Pathology

Read:

Optional:

Ask:

  • Are the two readings similar? How so?
  • What sociopolitical factors explains similarities or differences?
  • How is psychological science used to shape the world/politics?
  • Link to asylum unit
  • Link to IQ testing
  • What can be done to avoid racism in psychology? What solutions won’t work, in your opinion?
  • If psychological diagnoses can be used to reaffirm racism, can they also be used to push back against racism? If so, what would this look like?

October 21: Radical therapies and Social Critiques

Read:

Optional:

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Subjectivity & Bias

November 11: Culture-Bound Syndromes

Read:

Optional:

Ask:

  • If other cultures can have culture-bound syndromes, can we? Or are our ideas about mental illness objective reality?
  • Are depression and PMS culture-bound syndromes? How does it relate to modernity? How is this similar to or different from concepts like neurasthenia?
  • What role should patient experiences play in understanding, treating, or defining disorders?
  • What makes something a “real” disorder versus a culture-bound one?
  • Are some culture-bound syndromes easier to understand than others? Why?
  • What modern/culture-bound illnesses can you think of in your own experience/circles?

November 13: False Memories & Moral Panics

Read:

Optional:

Ask:

  • Are memories fallible or can they be trusted?
  • If the former, what implications does this have for courts?
  • How do courts try to distinguish false memories from true ones? Is this different from how psychologists do this? What about from how you do this in regard to your own memories?
  • Can Satanic Panic be considered a culture-bound syndrome or should we think about it in some different way? Can culture-bound syndromes exist within small subcultures?
  • How can we explain something like Satanic Panic while taking it seriously as a belief system and experience on the part of the people who reported it?
  • Are supernatural claims primarily about religious beliefs? Are they conversions of trauma into something more understandable to the traumatized person? Are they something else?
  • Are the children at McMartin lying? What does it mean to lie in this context?
  • Who is wrong here? The parents? The child advocates and police? The daycare workers? Do you have to intend to mislead in order to be wrong?
  • What do cases like this mean for how we understand our own memories, or other people’s memories? What does this mean for psychologists and patients? What about for discussions of child abuse?

November 6: Race, Social Pathologies & Sociology

Read:

Ask:

  • How does subjective identity (in this case, being black) shape how a person relates to the world? How does this, in turn, affect how psychological treatment works or ought to work?
  • If we have to take the patient’s (or research subject’s) subjectivity into account, do we also need to take the researcher or counselor’s subjectivity into account? How can we do this? Think here about Moynihan’s identity and how that shaped his interpretation of the problem he was looking at. How might someone else’s interpretation have differed?
  • What is the relationship between psychology and sociology? To what extent are personal problems also social problems, or vice versa?
  • What are the consequences or benefits of treating psychology as an atomized discipline? Are there problems that are purely psychological? What about purely social?
  • Can a family be disordered? What about a group or subculture? Is this the same as an individual being disordered?
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Research & Ethics

October 23: Little Albert

Read:

Ask:

  • Are these studies unethical? Why? Would it make a difference if someone consented to the studies? If the participants were adults?
  • How do you prove a theory while also behaving ethically?
  • Does this limit our knowledge? Does it limit it too much?
  • Should we continue using research that was done unethically?


October 28: IRBs, Double-Blind Trials & Professional Norms

Read:

Do: Look over TSU’s IRB forms and think about how the ethical issues and professional norms discussed here are put into practice. Are there things missing from the IRB forms? Are there things that don’t make sense?


October 30: WEIRD Research

Read:

Optional:

Do: Pick a topic and look through several recent studies on that topic; what kind of research subjects do the papers involve? Do the authors comment on this? Should they?

Ask:

  • Do WEIRD subjects bias psychological research? Are there topics where this is a big problem? Are there topics where it isn’t?
  • Why are particular research subjects more common than others?
  • What gets left out of the acronym that might also be important?
  • How could we get around this?
  • Have you ever participated in a study?

November 4: Titicut Follies (1967) & Patient Privacy

Watch: Titicut Follies (you can also watch the film on Kanopy.)

Write: Your final film blog.

Ask:

  • This documentary was initially banned due to violations of patient privacy. If patients didn’t consent to being filmed, is it an ethical violation for the documentary to be screened?
  • If the patients can’t consent to being filmed, can they consent to how they’re being treated at Bridgewater?
  • Is the knowledge that the public gains by seeing the documentary and the conditions at Bridgewater more important than the patients’ rights to privacy?
  • How do we resolve ethical conundrums like this?
  • What kinds of treatments are used at Bridgewater? How do they line up with things we’ve read in class?
  • What kind of emotions do you feel watching the documentary? Who do you feel empathy for?
  • Does it matter that these patients are at a forensic hospital and are criminals? Do some people cede their right to humane treatment? How differently do you feel about Little Albert versus the patients at Bridgewater? What if you knew what their crimes were?
  • Compare the documentary to Nelly Bly’s expose:
    • To what extent has the asylum changed?
    • To what extent has new technology changed the ethical questions involved in each? Was it a problem or a violation of anyone’s privacy for Nelly Bly to write “Ten Days in a Madhouse”? Can privacy be violated in an investigative report or is it a product of film technology and thus a modern problem?
  • Compare the three films we’ve watched. Are they similar or different? Think about genre, intentions, etc.
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Treatment

REMINDER: You need to complete two blogs on any of the units we have covered so far. Email them to me by next Monday.

Also on Monday, we will begin talking about your final projects. We discussed how you needed to put three things together: a topic/question, data, and a digital methodology. Come to class with an idea for at least two of these things, and we will talk about how to turn that into a workable project.

Read through the instructions page on Digital Humanities for ideas about tools you might use. I also encourage you to think creatively when it comes to data. You could do a mostly traditional research paper, in which case your data would be journal articles and books. On the other hand, you could decide you want to talk about how mental institutions developed in the US. In that case, your data might be architectural plans, data on the locations of the institutions, etc.


Unit-Wide Questions:

  • What theories are (or aren’t) behind these treatments?
  • Where and how is the patient being altered?
  • Do these treatments require you to believe certain things about the brain? About the mind?
  • How does each treatment relate to the theories of mind we talked about earlier?

October 2: Insulin Comas, ECT & Other Physical Therapies

Read:

Ask:

  • Compare the three articles. Why do different people talk about insulin shock therapy so differently?
  • How do these kinds of physical interventions differ from psychosurgery? How do they differ from drug therapies?
  • Do they work? If so, why? How do we know?

October 7: The Drug Revolution

Read: Anne Harrington’s “Depression” from Mind Fixers: Psychiatry’s Troubled Search for the Biology of Mental Illness

Optional reading/listening: “An Epidemic of Depression or the Medicalization of Distress?” (NPR interview with Anne Harrington)

Ask:                                                               

  • How are psychiatric drugs discovered or created today? What about in the past?
  • Does self-experimentation help or hinder the study of new drugs?
  • What about experimentation on patients—does it matter that drugs are being tested on hospitalized patients? Or that drugs tested on schizophrenics are later used for depression?
  • Do these drugs reflect a certain way of thinking about mental illness? How have they changed our ideas about psychology? What about our ideas about specific disorders?
  • What role does advertising play in the history of psychiatric medications?
  • Do popular understandings of psychiatric medications line up with scientific ideas? If not, is this a problem? For who and how?
  • Harrington suggests that diagnoses are strongly linked to available treatments, thus depression only became commonly diagnosed as antidepressants were created. Likewise, we’ve seen that psychotic disorders were the largest concern in eras where less invasive treatments did not exist, and that neurasthenia was invented as medical knowledge of the nervous system advanced. If that’s true, then what era are we in now? How does contemporary scientific knowledge shape what disorders we think are important or common?


October 9: Talk Therapies

Read:

Do: Research one type of psychotherapy (look here, here or here for examples) and make a content map to think through the following questions:

  • Where did it come from?
  • What theories or evidence support it?
  • How has it been implemented?
  • What other types of therapy is it related to?

Ask:

  • How do we measure the efficacy of talk therapies?
  • Is therapy an art or a science? Or both?
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Testing

Before You Begin: Take the MBTI here, and take a Rorschach inkblot test here. Think about the following questions:

  • What do these tests say (or not say) about you?
  • Think about the process of taking the tests. Does the structure of the test shape your answers?
  • Are you able to interpret the results of the test for yourself or do you need an expert to do it?
  • Does your answer to the previous question shape how you feel about each test? Do you think tests you can interpret for yourself are more or less trustworthy?

Unit-Wide Questions:

  • What is the purpose of testing? What is it useful for? What’s it not useful for? Can these kinds of psychology tests tell you something about yourself? Can your self be quantified?
  • When and why were these tests developed? Does that tell us something about their purpose?
  • Why does the general public embrace some tests, despite psychologists rejecting those tests?
  • Does testing require an oversimplification of theories and people? Can a test encompass all the facets that go into intelligence or personality?
    • Is this problem made better or worse by projective tests? What about structured, supposedly empirical ones? What’s the trade off here?

September 25: IQ

Read: “Science, Ideology, and Ideals: The Social History of IQ Testing”

Optional reading:

Ask:

  • What is intelligence? Do we have to define it in order to measure it?
  • What did historical IQ tests measure? What about contemporary IQ tests?
  • What are IQ tests good for? Think not just about what they measure, but how they can be used in practice.
  • What do biases in historical IQ tests mean for contemporary tests? Are contemporary tests unbiased, or should we be concerned that biases still exist?

September 30: Psychoanalytic and Projective Testing

Read:

Optional reading: “Has Wikipedia Created a Rorschach Cheat Sheet?”

Ask:

  • Are unstructured projective tests valid? If not, why not?
  • Should Norris’ inkblot results have been used to keep him from being hired?
  • Both the MBTI and the Rorschach inkblot test employ psychoanalytic theories, yet are structured and used in completely different ways. Why is that? Does one type of test make more sense as an expression of psychoanalytic theory, or are both equally valid?
  • Does the MBTI strictly follow Jungian theory? How do these things morph over time? Is this product of testing itself?
  • Compare Hermann Rorschach’s idea of how the inkblot test should work with online tests (examples here and here.) Are these online tests valid? In what sense? What does this say about how specialist knowledge can (or should) be disseminated online?
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Theories of Mind

Unit-Wide Questions:

  • How do we understand behavior and feelings? Are they separate pieces that can be altered one by one? Are they part of a holistic system?
  • What methods do these different theorists use to gain knowledge? Do their methodologies reflect their theories?
  • Which methodologies and theories are still used today? Which aren’t?
  • What other researchers or thinkers do each group cite? Are these things different? Do they line up with their methodologies and theories? For instance, why does Freud cite philosophers and literature?
  • How would these different theories of mind translate into practice? What kind of therapy would you develop if you believed in each theory of mind?
  • Is there a singular self? What is it? How do we come to know it or know about it?
  • Which of these ways of thinking about the mind is most familiar to you? Which have entered popular culture?
  • Which of these ideas allows you to explain yourself, your experiences or your behavior best? Does this line up with which idea has the most empirical support?

September 9: Behaviorism & Conditioning

Read:

Optional reading: B.F. Skinner’s “Behaviorism at Fifty” (1963)


September 11: Freud & Psychoanalysis

Before you start reading: list everything you know about Freud here. The results will display as a word cloud, so please use one word answers (or if you have to use two words, smush them together.)

Read:

Optional reading:

Ask:

  • If Freud was wrong about a lot of things, if his research can’t be replicated, if he wasn’t always good for his patients, does that mean his ideas are completely worthless? What can or should we still take from Freud?
  • What value does metaphor and imagination have in a field like psychology, particularly as it becomes more and more empirical and research-driven?
  • Compare Freud to the behaviorists here; does one of these appeal to you more when thinking about how to explain yourself? Is the more appealing one the more empirical one?


September 16: Phenomenology & Altered States

Read:

Optional reading:

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Asylums

Below, you will find a list of questions to think about throughout this unit, readings and questions for each class (August 27, August 29 & September 3), and some optional readings that could form the basis of an extra-credit blog or your final project.


Unit-Wide Questions

  • What was the purpose of asylums?
  • What kind of treatment was available for the mentally ill in the 1880s?
  • What did life inside an asylum look like?
  • What kind of information is available to answer questions like these? Is it objective? Does it need to be objective? Think about how a patient’s account might differ from a doctor’s report.
  • Are there some people who need to be committed for their own good? How do we distinguish them? What rights should they have?
  • How can we humanely treat someone who we think isn’t in their right mind?
  • How do we deal with these questions today? How were they dealt with in the 1880s?
  • If our current attitudes and practices are different from historical ones, what lead to changes in the field?
  • Are mentally ill people fundamentally different from mentally healthy people? What can mental illness tell us about mental health?

August 26: A Mysterious Waif at Bellevue

Read:

Ask:

  • What do you think is wrong with the mystery woman? What should be done with her? What would be done with her today?
  • What kind of language do the news articles use? Is there a difference between the three papers?
  • What is is about the mysterious woman that these papers find so fascinating?
  • What information do they have access to? What information would a paper have access to today if a similar incident occurred?

August 28: The Snake Pit

Watch: The Snake Pit (you can stream the film online, but if you want to watch with subtitles, you will need to download the film and the subtitles.)

Write: Your first film blog. Instructions are available here.


September 4: “Ten Days in a Madhouse”

Read: “Ten Days in a Madhouse”

Two notes on the reading:

  • “Ten Days in a Madhouse” was released with two other reports by Nellie Bly; you do not have to read these other reports, which begin under the header “Miscellaneous Sketches.”
  • “Ten Days in a Madhouse” is long (64 pages.) You may choose to skim parts of it as long as you get a sense of the document.

Ask:

  • What does this report say about the state of mental health care in the 1880s? Could Nellie Bly’s situation have been avoided? If so, how?
  • What should be done to fix the problems Bly reports? What do you think was done?
  • What do you think the popular reaction to Bly’s report was? What about the reaction among physicians and alienists?
  • Is the image of the asylum you saw in The Snake Pit the same as the one put forward in “Ten Days in a Madhouse” or is it different? How so? What do the two have in common? If they’re different, why are they different?
  • What information do we rely on when diagnosing mental illness? The patient’s own words and opinions? Research? Brain scans? Laws? Something else? How do we balance these things?

Optional reading & ideas for extra-credit blogs & projects

Browse the “mental asylum” tag on Undercover Reporting and think about how other undercover reports differ from or are similar to Bly’s.

  • Why have so many reporters gone undercover in asylums and mental hospitals?
  • What long-term impact did Bly have, judging by similar reporting from the 1930s (Frank Smith) or the 1960s (Michael Mok.)
  • What role (if any) does gender play in this? Does it matter that Bly was a woman? How so?
  • How has reporting changed? Do these reporters use similar language or structures for their reports?
  • Could similar undercover work be done today? If so, what does that say about objectivity in psychology?

Browse the “Stunt Girls (and Boys) of the Late 1880s” page on Undercover Reporting

  • Is Bly’s experience in the asylum different from her experiences in jail or in the Magdalen Home? How so?
  • What do similarities between these institutions say about the purpose of asylums in the 1880s?

Research Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute (formerly known as the Central State Hospital for the Insane.) The hospital was criticized by famed reformer Dorothea Dix in the 1840s, and the subject of an undercover report by Frank Sutherland in the 1970s.

  • What changes did Dix want made? What about Sutherland? Are these the same or different?
  • Why was this asylum the target of so much criticism?
  • What kind of information is available about the asylum today? What kind of information isn’t easily available?
  • Dix was part of a larger group of female reformers; what other issues were such reformers interested in? Are these issues linked? If so, how?
  • You can find more primary sources about Dix here, here and here.
  • If you’re really ambitious, go to the Tennessee State Library & Archive located downtown to look at documents related to the hospital.

Watch “Born Sexy Yesterday,” a video-essay about pop culture tropes, and compare this to The Snake Pit and news articles on the mysterious waif at Bellevue. Ask why the trope of the amnesiac woman or the woman without a past is so compelling to audiences across such a large span of time.