Blind Minds: How Psychology Ignored (the last) Great Depression

Science is built up of facts, as a house is built of stones.  But an accumulation of facts is no more a science than a heap of stones is a house – Henri Poincare

I’ve been discouraged by the lack of careful thinking in my field about our current situation worldwide.

We’ve been in the New Reality for several years, now, but where are my colleagues who write and publish?  I’m not saying nobody is out there, writing, thinking, talking.  Of course they are…but not in the professional journals.  There’s a media black-out.  As a group, we’re MIA.  Looking through one publication, Psychological Bulletin,  I found very little that would lead me to believe that psychologists even notice the heartbreak going on around them.  Surely, during the Great Depression, psychologist heeded the call, and began to research how to help the mass suffering…

Alas, I was mistaken.  Here’s what one colleague wrote about his fellow psychologists:

When the United States entered the first World War, psychologists, as an associated group, volunteered their professional services. Their contribution was considerable, both to the conduct of the War and to psychology.

When the United States entered the big world depression, psychologists did nothing and, as a group, have so far done nothing.

For nearly 10 years we have suffered through a national social and economic crisis; yet, from an examination of our professional journals and the programs of our professional meetings, one might conclude that psychologists were oblivious of the fact that our social institutions are rattling about our ears.

In fact, the world at large is as ignorant of the possible contributions of psychologists as psychologists appear to be about the world.”  From:  The psychologist’s understanding of social issues. Gundlach, R. H.;  Vol 37(8), Oct, 1940. pp. 613-620

So what WERE Psychologists writing about, and thinking about, as the world was “rattling about our ears?”  Here is a sample of titles from Psychological Bulletin from 1930-1940.  I’ve added particularly interesting quotes.  Some are remarkably inane. For the therapists among us, I’ve included a few quotes by luminaries in the field.


Psychology of music. Mursell, J. L.;  Vol 29(3), Mar, 1932.

Well, were they just unaware that there WAS a world-wide depression?  This note in 1932 says not.

Notes: MILNEE PARK, JOHANNESBURG, 22nd February, 1932:

Unfortunately, the loss is only in small part covered by insurance; and it will be readily understood that, in the present world-wide depression, it is difficult to raise the sum required for the repurchase of all the books which have been lost.

In these circumstances, I venture to appeal to all American philosophers and psychologists, and especially to my old colleagues and friends, for the gift of author’s copies of their own writings or duplicates from their libraries, to help me build up again, as soon as possible, a working library for my students.

Every such gift—addressed to The Librarian, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa—will be gratefully acknowledged, and the names of the donors, together with the occasion of the gift, will be recorded in the volumes themselves.”

Habit formation and higher mental processes in the rat. Heron, W. T.; Vol 29(7), Jul, 1932.

Effects of castration on the behavior of mammals. Commins, W. D.; Stone, C. P.;  Vol 29(7), Jul, 1932

Notes Dec, 1933: “Dr. Ivan Pavlov, Professor of Physiology at Leningrad, who celebrates his eighty-third birthday on September 14, presented papers at the International Congress of Psychology recently held at Copenhagen and at the International Congress of Physiology recently held- at Rome  October 1932″


Three or four million heads of households don’t turn into tramps and cheats overnight, nor do they lose the habits and standards of a lifetime… They don’t drink any more than the rest of us, they don’t lie any more, they’re no lazier than the rest of us…. An eighth or a tenth of the earning population does not change its character which has been generations in the molding, or, if such a change actually occurs, we can scarcely charge it up to personal sin.”
– Federal relief administrator Harry Hopkins, 1933

The role of speed in intelligence. Beck, L. F.;  Vol 30(2), Feb, 1933

I don’t mean to imply that psychologists of the era could not be rallied to political action…here’s a sample of what mobilized them:

Notes:  Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 30 (2), February 1933. pp. 182-183:

Drs. C. P. Stone, E. G. Wever and C. J. Warden, Chairman, desires to call attention to the following bills which have been introduced since January first to limit experimental work on animals: (1) New York Assembly, A. 63, proposing to prohibit any experimental work upon a living dog; (2) New York Assembly, A. 181, proposing to make it a misdemeanor to experiment or operate on a live dog for any purpose other than to heal or cure the animal; (3) Massachusetts Senate, S. 113, proposing to penalize certain experiments and operations on live dogs, and (4) Maine House, H. 217, proposing a fine for the practice of vivisection in schools supported wholly or in part by the state. Dr. Warden writes:

“It is hoped that members of the American Psychological Association, residing in these states, will write letters of protest against the passage of these measures to the appropriate legislators. Bills of this kind are backed by powerful organizations whose efforts to obstruct scientific research must be met by active and determined resistance.”

Peak Shink’s Comment:  “We knew how to “screw the pooch” back then, and no laws were going to stop us!”

Conditioned responses in animals other than dogs. Razran, G. H. S.; Vol 30(4), Apr, 1933. pp. 261-324

Mental abilities related to learning to spell. Williamson, E. G.; Vol 30(10), Dec, 1933  pp. 743-751.

A review of experiments on humor. Perl, R. E.; Vol 30(10), Dec, 1933. pp. 752-763:

The first research to be reported in the field of humor is one by G. Stanley Hall and Arthur Allin (3) which was published in 1897. They received about 3,000 responses to a questionnaire sent out requesting a description of all situations which individuals considered humorous, and including questions on tickling and its effects at various ages, causes of laughter in children, laughter in animals, fun in the theater, spontaneous laughter, laughter at calamities, and the best joke in each class, including puns, repartee, practical jokes, etc. Then they classified laughs, gave a resume of theories of laughter, and concluded that all the current theories were inadequate and speculative, but that there are few more promising fields for psychological research than that of humor… A group of college girls were asked not only to tell the funniest thing they knew, but also to grade, on a 5 point scale, a list of 40 jokes ranging from good to bad and representative of various types of humor. Naive jokes ranked highest here. She found that a sense of humor among normal persons is unrelated to intelligence.”


“How many men ever went to a barbecue and would let one man take off the table what’s intended for nine-tenths of the people to eat? The only way you’ll ever be able to feed the balance of the people is to make that man come back and bring back some of that grub that he ain’t got no business with!”
– Louisiana Senator Huey P. Long, 1934


Conditioned withdrawal responses with shock as the conditioning stimulus in adult human subjects. Razran, G. H. S.;  Vol 31(2), Feb, 1934. pp. 111-143

The female sex rhythm. Seward, G. H.;  Vol 31(3), Mar, 1934. pp. 153-192:

Of the biological rhythms, none is more striking than the female sex rhythm. So striking  rhythm with its menstrual phenomena in women that it gripped the imagination of primitive peoples who lacked sufficient information to regard it as a natural event.

Interferences in reading. Jastak, J.; Vol 31(4), Apr, 1934. pp. 244-272.

Peak Shrink asks: “Did the researcher control for Starvation?”

Review of “The Human Problems of an Industrial Civilization“. Kornhauser, Arthur W.;  Vol 31(4), Apr, 1934. pp. 275-278:

“Modern industrial life  as a whole, then, with its conflicts and constraint upon the individual, is responsible for the feelings of futility, the “personal disequilibrium,” the irrational conduct, the dearth of “effective collaboration” in daily work…. What it does do, however, is depict a range of challenging problems in the social psychology of industry.  The lesson it impresses is this:  To understand the industrial worker one must see him in relation to the whole social process. Toward the understanding of that relationship Professor Mayo offers rich and penetrating suggestions.”

Peak Shrink adds:  “Remember folks, this was 1934.  If employment was tough, try not having a job.”

And in this next one, Cantril suggests relevant questions for psychologists to explore…Nudists and KKK?  WTF?

The social psychology of everyday lifeCantril, H.;  Vol 31(5), May, 1934. pp. 297-330:

Fads and fashions. The literature on this subject is in general descriptive and non-analytical.

  • Why do fads like jig-saw puzzles, anagrams, short skirts, or women’s capes come in cycles?
  • Why are the dictates of Paris, New York, and Hollywood dress designers so readily accepted by women ?
  • Why do marathon dances, pole-sitting contests, and other endurance feats attract so much popular attention?
  • To what extent are popular attitudes toward the N.R.A., the gold standard, or free trade based on factual knowledge and to what extent on suggestion?
  • Why do cigarette manufacturers find that it pays to sponsor symphony broadcasts?
  • Examine the policies of Hitler’s “Ministry for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda.”
  • Why are revival meetings found chiefly in the United States?
  • How have legends of the Old Testament affected the habits and attitudes of the American negro?
  • How do avertive shibboleths such as “big business,” “corporation,” or “industry” encourage legislation which is inimical to the interests of individuals?
  • What feelings and emotions must a ” gentleman ” suppress?  Which may he express?
  • Why can political cartoons be more effective than editorials?
  • What is the psychology of parades?
  • Hitler has encouraged dueling among German students. Why?
  • What devices are used by governments, munition manufacturers, and chemical industries to build up “patriotic” attitudes in children?
  • What devices do jingoists employ to heighten suggestibility in war time?
  • Do children who play with toy guns, soldiers, and battleships tend to be more militaristic than children who do not have such toys?
  •  Why do social movements like the Ku Klux Klan or nudism always seek converts?
  • What are the differences in the functions of a leader like Franklin Roosevelt and a dominator like Mussolini?
  • Why are men with such entirely different personal characteristics as Marx and Stalin regarded as leaders by the same group?
  • Why is a pipe one of a man’s best friends?
  • Why do people sometimes feel lonesome if a clock stops its slow ticking?
Peak Shrink’s Comments:  Finally Cantril suggests that social psychologists look at the unemployed, who now numbered 1 out of every 4 workers:

Psychological effects of unemployment. Sociologists and social workers have reported the effects of unemployment on health, living conditions, and family life, while statisticians everywhere have been busy with quantitative surveys. There has been comparatively little direct investigation of the psychological effects of unemployment and many of the references cited below refer only incidentally to psychological problems.

  • How has unemployment affected the attitudes of parents and children toward each other?
  • How do unemployed use their leisure time?     …Polo ANYONE?
  • How has unemployment changed attitudes and plans for the future?
  • To what extent has unemployment affected the sense of time?
  • How have the wishes and ambitions of the children of unemployed parents been affected?
  • Has the unemployment of parents affected the play and fantasy of children?
  • What  are the differences between  the attitudes of employed and unemployed men toward employers, the N.R.A., socialism, war, suicide, birth control, crime, or education ?
  • Does unemployment increase or decrease suggestibility? Are the unemployed more susceptible to advertising, money schemes, fortune tellers, or leaders?
  • How has unemployment affected  the interest in personal appearance or the sense of rivalry and competition?
  • Do unemployed tend to evolve more imaginative schemes than employed ?
  • Has unemployment changed personal habits such as shaving, washing, sexual behavior, or regularity of hours ?
  • Is the type of fiction or non-fiction read by the unemployed different from that read by employed with the same cultural background?
  • Do unemployed have more desire than employed to go  to the movies, to travel, to own an automobile, a home, or a radio?

Review of “Psychological Racketeers”. Bender, Irving E.;Vol 31(5), May, 1934. pp. 372-373:

BOOK REVIEW: YATES, DOROTHY H. Psychological Racketeers. Boston: Gorham Press, 1932. Pp. 232:

“The title of this book expresses Dr. Yates’ carefully weighed opinion respecting “applied psychologists,” who are the itinerant inspirers of the sick, the gullible, and the discouraged. Inordinate powers of suggestion, smug self-confidence and an orotund voice seem to be the chief assets of the more affluent of these “racketeers.”   The author investigates fourteen “applied psychologists.” She discovers most of their claims concerning their qualifications and credentials to be extravagant, misleading, and absurd. High-powered emotional appeals are made in free introductory lectures advertising the pay classes which explain “how to get what you want,” whether it is “success, health, or happiness.”

Review of “Social Psychology”. Hurvich, L. M.;  Vol 31(5), May, 1934. pp. 374-375:

WARD, HARRY F. In Place of Profit. New York and London: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1933. Pp. xi+460.

“Each day we live happier.”

This book ought to be useful to the psychologist whose expert opinion is so frequently requested as an aid in answering this trite question: “But Communism is contrary to human nature, isn’t it ?”  Instead of making vague references to the plasticity of the nervous system, the student of human nature may now say:

Read In Place of Profit. Therein you will see how the Soviet Government is able to make people work and to support the state enthusiastically. The source of motivation is not completely different from the one which is used to make our system go: people still compete with one another and with other groups for increased wages and for social honors. And yet the competition is regulated, so that no one class of individuals can raise itself high by crushing others.

Other incentives have been either created or emphasized in this new society: work is considered a privilege, not a hardship; workers are proud of their products, for most of them do feel that they are producing for themselves and that they are self-governing; the hostile world which surrounds Russia makes her workers more anxious to develop their country; greater opportunities are being offered to everybody. Professor Ward, in rather dull fashion, it is true, quotes Soviet authorities, because he wants you to see that ‘ human nature’ is being ‘ changed ‘ in accordance with a unifying principle and a well developed plan. In short, after reading this book, you will be inclined to believe that people in Russia are motivated by a new system of social values.”  Harvard University. LEONARD W. DOOB  Yale.

Psychology in Germany and Austria. Watson, G.;  Vol 31(10), Dec, 1934. pp. 755-776:

It is probably characteristic of any congress of scientific specialists that most of the reports seem to deal with very limited, technical questions, the application of which in life is not immediately apparent. A count of the papers which dealt with some life-centered problem, which would arouse interest in the man or woman not concerned with psychology as a scientific system, showed 7 per cent of the papers from Germany, 5 per cent of those from the United States, and 7 per cent of those from other countries belonging in this ” obviously important ” category. The papers from the United States were more concerned than were the German papers with white rats, with motor reactions, abnormal psychology and the nervous system, with childhood and adolescence, and with individual differences.  In the light of later political developments it is amazing that scarcely a single study touched on the economic and political forces which were molding a new order in Central Europe. 

The successful psychologist in Germany becomes a philosopher; in America the successful psychologist becomes a college administrator “… It was educative to report the facts of an American study to a German seminar, only to be asked: “Yes, and what of it ? What does it mean?”

They [German Psychologists] are less concerned with what the subject can do on intelligence or achievement tests, but relatively more concerned with how these reflect his Weltanschauung.  Even in psychotechnics we find the question shifting from “What are his special abilities? ” to “What kind of a person is he?”

The writer was privileged to attend the Thirteenth Congress of the German Psychological Association which met at Leipzig in October, 1933. This was the first gathering after the Nazi revolution. Some 600 psychologists attended the meetings. The first change noted was the absence of some of the most distinguished  leaders: Wertheimer, Stern, Katz, Peters, Koffka, Kronfeld, Lewin, and many others. Indeed, the officers of the Association had been non-Aryan, and were replaced by lesser scholars of correct heritage. Personal investigation indicated that the great tragedies of National Socialism were less in the occasional atrocities played up by the press than in the silent suffering of men who had given a lifetime of worthy service, suddenly forced  to withdraw, to see their contributions scorned, their journals discontinued, their institutes dismantled or “reorganized”. Incidentally, psychoanalysis as a “Jewish doctrine” has been practically banished Equally striking was another  change: the “politicalization” of psychology.  Krueger expressed, in the opening presidential address, his faith in idealism, particularly the new German idealism. Poppelreuter was the most politically active of  the group.  He has been teaching ” political psychology ” using Hitler’s ” Mein Kampf ” as his text. Jaensch bent his typology to show that the enemy  (Jews and Parisians) were Stype: destructive, lytic, disintegrative, so adaptable as to lack all inner character structure.  Studies by Clauss and the Prince of Isenburg also emphasized racial character types.

Pfahler, in discussion, urged  that the psychologically undesirable type, rather than certain racial stock, be the subject of attack.  He was distressing to learn that Jaensch had recently stooped to political attacks upon Kohler because of the latter’s international contacts, recognized that there might be those of his own race, biologically, who could not enter with enthusiasm into the Nazi ideology, while some of non-Aryan ancestry might be psychologically harmonious with the new.

Although many brilliant psychologists have left voluntarily or been forced to leave, this cultural tradition is likely to continue for many years. No one has emphasized this more strongly than Spranger, the Berlin pedagog. ” Der objektiv Geist”* remains relatively constant while men and parties come and go.

PEAK SHRINK’S COMMENT:  *”Objective Spirit”  This wasn’t translated in the original.  The psychologists of the day had many articles they reviewed in German and French.


“Fifty men have run America, and that’s a high figure.”—George Dimitrov, Comintern General Secretary, Bulgarian Communist leader and “hero of the Reichstag Fire trial” speaking to the Seventh World Congress, August (1935)

 Physiological aspects of lethal shock.Lorge, I.; , Vol 32(3), Mar, 1935. pp. 197-202.

 “It is the aim of this paper to set forth the facts about lethal shock so as to indicate the surprisingly small quantities of current which  may be potentially dangerous…”

Experimental studies of learning in infants and preschool children. Wenger, M. A.; Williams, H. M.; Vol 32(4), Apr, 1935. pp. 276-305.

Review of “Introduction to applied psychology”.  Burtt, Harold E.; Vol 32(4), Apr, 1935. pp. 317-319.

Review of “Mental Training–A Practical Psychology”.  McKinney, Fred; Vol 32(5), May, 1935. pp. 373-374:

The final chapter discusses general problems of human fellowship and tries to make a case for applied psychology as one factor that will retard social decline. The discussion of special maladjustments and their treatment deals with fears, worries, compulsions, obsessions, and jealousy. One conjectures as to why other maladjustments, such as self-consciousness, negativism, timidity, lying, feelings of inferiority, guilt and futility, etc., are not also included.”FRED MCKINNEY.  University of Missouri.

Review of “Negro Intelligence and Selective Migration”. Lanier, Lyle H.;  Vol 32(6), Jun, 1935. pp. 443-445.

Review of “Environment and Growth”. Hollingworth, Leta S.;  Vol 32(6), Jun, 1935. pp. 445-447:

“The study does not dispute the fact that in all probability there are inherent differences between the various socio-economic classes.  It’s one and only contention is that the role of environment cannot be overlooked in view of the evidence that differences found in children of different socio-economic classes are of environmental origin and, if environmental differences are important enough to affect physical growth, it is most probable that they affect psycho-social adaptations and behavior as well.”  With this final statement no student of human development would quarrel, and no new book is needed to set it forth.  Concomitants varying together, such as intelligence and socioeconomic status, are thought to prove that good food produces or tends to produce intelligence of a high order; and this interpretation is further favored, in the mind of the author, by the accumulated studies which show stature and weight to vary concomitantly with intelligence. LETA S. HOLLINGWORTH.  Teachers College, Columbia University

Circuits now available for the measurement of electrodermal responses. Greenwald, D. U.; Vol 32(10), Dec, 1935. pp. 779-791.

Review of “Adult Interests”.  Irion, Theo. W. H.;  Vol 32(10), Dec, 1935. pp. 834-838:

“Probably even more significant is the principle (p. 45) that, “Except for a few eccentric individuals, persons will on the whole like most those activities in which they do best. The average degree of correlation will be substantial.”

Peak Shrink’s Comment:  “Duhh…”


The only difference between a derelict and a man is a job.—From the Movie: My Man Godfrey 1936


Psychological experiments with disordered persons. Hunt, J. Mcv.;  Vol 33(1), Jan, 1936. pp. 1-58.

Review of “A Mind Mislaid”.Morgan, John J. B.;, Vol 34(8), Oct, 1937. pp. 627-628:

“In essence Professor Morgan has written instructions to immature people on the methods they should use for developing a pleasing personality and a comfortable and happy life.  If in places the term “Christian” seems to have been omitted only by sheerest force of will, one can scarcely criticize the mildly inspirational attitude which was adopted. What is characterized in our culture as a “sound mind” or a “good character” is essentially that code of behavior which has developed around Christian ethics.” ROBERT R. SEARS.  University of Illinois.

Review of “Keeping a Sound Mind”. Sears, Robert R.; Vol 33(2), Feb, 1936. pp. 137-138.

Review of “How People Look at Pictures”. Tinker, Miles A.;  Vol 33(2), Feb, 1936. pp. 142-143.

Review of “The Content of Motion Pictures. Children’s Attendance at Motion Pictures”. Ehrenfest, F. H.;  Vol 33(2), Feb, 1936. pp. 143-144.

The psychology of language. McGranahan, D. V.; , Vol 33(3), Mar, 1936. pp. 178-216:

Many words have obviously strong emotional effects on the hearer, due to the contexts in which they have appeared in the past. This is especially true with words having to do with traumatic incidents, or with one’s family, race, nation, religion, or political creed. There is a still unsettled problem, however, as to whether words differ in emotional effects because of differences in the aesthetic value of their respective phonemes and auditory configurations. Is ” serene,” for example, intrinsically or only by association more beautiful than  “squawk ?”

Review of “Personality Maladjustments and Mental Hygiene”. Chant, S. N. F.;  Vol 33(4), Apr, 1936. pp. 294-296:

“There is the usual difficulty of telling people many things they should do without definitely indicating how they are to do them. This difficulty is general in the field of mental hygiene. However, it is true that a knowledge of what should be done, such as the author presents, is in itself essential, even though its practical usefulness is somewhat limited. The problem of getting the individual to think, feel and act as he may very well know he should think, feel and act is the greatest practical difficulty in the way of a broad and effective mental hygiene program. The only solution to this difficulty is research…” 

Peak Shrink’s Comment:  “Research.  It’s been amazingly helpful so far!”

Review of “Propaganda, its Psychology and Technique”. Farnsworth, Paul R.;  Vol 33(7), Jul, 1936. pp. 552-555:

“Intentional propaganda is a systematic attempt by an interested individual (or individuals) to control the attitudes of groups of individuals through the use of suggestion and, consequently, to control their actions; unintentional propaganda is the control of attitudes and, consequently, the actions of groups of individuals through the use of suggestion.” He suggests that the term “education” be employed whenever there is social pressure (“intentional” or “unintentional “) to conform to the behavior patterns of the majority of the group. Propaganda (as a sociological matter and not as a psychological process) then could refer to situations in which there is pressure to conform to the behavior norms of some minority. Even this distinction does violence to the lay notions and does not always offer a clean-cut dichotomy. PAUL R. FARNSWORTH. Stanford University

Peak Shrink’s Comment:  “Tell me again, what’s the difference between propaganda and education?  

JACOBSON,  EDMUND, You Must Relax. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1934.  Pp.  xv + 201 .

“The subtitle reads,  “A practical method of reducing the strains of modern living.” The author notices that many Americans find it hard to meet the demands of their occupations, families and associates, and therefore keep much of their musculature under high tension during much of the time. He believes that on the average, their muscular tension is higher than that of their predecessors (who need fear only Indians, crop-failures and famine, wars, pestilences, and possibly the hereafter.)

The author believes that unnecessary and persistent muscular tension makes for insomnia, habits of worry, habitual fears, spastic intestines, and the like; he also suspects that it at least contributes to the syndrome of high blood-pressure. He suggests a two-fold remedy: (1) “differential” relaxation, i.e. the non-use of muscles which do not contribute to the activity pattern which the person has chosen to execute; and (2) “general” relaxation if the external situation demands or permits no specific responses to it… H. M. JOHNSON. American University.”

Review of “Problems of Installation in Museums of Art”. Allport, Floyd H.;  Vol 33(8), Oct, 1936. pp. 654-659.

Review of “Sanity First, The Art of Sensible Living” Kelly, E. Lowell; , Vol 33(8), Oct, 1936. pp. 672.

The importance of hunger in the bodily activity of the neonate. Richards, T. W.; Vol 33(10), Dec, 1936. pp. 817-835.

Peak Shrink’s Comment:  “You see?  There really IS a benefit to hunger.  Infants under 4 weeks old have to have it!


“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have too much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little… I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clothed, ill-nourished.”          – Roosevelt’s second inaugural address, 1937

Review of “Sex and Personality.” Hartmann, George W.;  Vol 34(2), Feb, 1937. pp. 103-106:

Thus, the word-association section consists of a primary stimulus word plus multiple-response items like this:

train   engine   gown   travel   whistle.

“Underlining  engine” gives one a “masculine” (M)  score; underlining any of the other words, but particularly “gown,” gives a ” feminine ” (F) weight.  Fear of thunder is an F response; being a Bolshevik is more wicked to M than to F personalities. Liking chemistry is an M trait; liking spelling an F trait. F personalities like Herbert Hoover; M personalities like Lenin. 

Peak Shrink’s Comments:  “Still skeptical?  Here’s proof!:

The smallest difference found between two sex groups was that occurring between female prostitutes and male passive homosexual prostitutes, which fact alone is one of the best evidences of the test’s validity.”

Movements of thought in the nineteenth century. Mullett, Charles F.;  Vol 34(2), Feb, 1937. pp. 115-117.

Review of “Race, sex and environment: A study of mineral deficiency in human evolution”. Warden, C. J.;  Vol 34(3), Mar, 1937. pp. 169-170.

Review of  “An Objective Psychology of Grammar.” Wolfle, Dael L.; Vol 34(6), Jun, 1937. pp. 398-402.

Peak Shrink’s Comment:  “Thank GOODness this look at grammar is objective!”

Review of  “A Mind Mislaid”. Morgan, John J. B.; Vol 34(8), Oct, 1937. pp. 627-628:

“Henry Collins Brown tells the story of his three years’ residence at the Bloomingdale Hospital. He tries to “show the world that a nervous breakdown is not necessarily the end of all things, . . . that there is absolutely nothing mysterious or supernatural about a breakdown of this kind. . . . Furthermore—and this is the sad part of it, mates—you are where you are largely as the result of some damn foolishness on your own part.  As the author puts  it:  “I often think that a two weeks’ sojourn in a mental hospital, at an early period in life, would be one of the best things that could happen to all of us. He attributes his difficulty to disappointment in losing his job as manager of a museum he had dreamed about and planned for years. He believes his cure came when he realized that he still had something for which to live.”

Peak Shrink’s Comment:  “Next to keeping a job, a mental hospital stay is a great ‘pick me up!'”

Review of “Growing Superior Children”. Hollingworth, Leta S.; Vol 34(8), Oct, 1937. pp. 628-629.

I am a girl sixteen years old. Last May I beg my father to buy an electric refrigerator for mother on Mother’s day.  He agreed to pay monthly payments of seven dollars and twenty two cents.  [M[y father was layed off after working for the railroad fifteen years. Many a girl of my age is hoping that on Christmas morn they will find a wrist watch, a handbag, or even a fur coat. But my one and only wish is to have father and mother spend a happy Christmas. Mrs. Roosevelt I am asking of you a favor which can make this wish come true. I am asking you to keep up our payments until my father gets back to work as a Christmas gift to me. Though father worked part time for quite a while we never lost anything for the lack of payments. If the refrigerator was taken away from us father and mother would think it a disgrace.

I am respectfully yours
Springfield, Mass 1937

The psychological effects of unemployment. Eisenberg, P.; Lazarsfeld, P. F.; Vol 35(6), Jun, 1938. pp. 358-390.

“The general conclusion of practically all workers in the field is that unemployment tends to make people more emotionally unstable than they were previous to unemployment. Clinicians have suggested the following concepts from observations of some of the effects of unemployment: Unemployment represents a personal threat to an individual’s economic security; fear plays a large role; the sense of proportion is shattered, that is, the individual loses his common sense of values; the individual’s prestige is lost in his own eyes, and as he imagines, in the eyes of his fellow men. He develops feelings of inferiority, loses his self-confidence, and in general, loses his morale.   Israeli lends further support through a questionnaire of his own; he found that Lancashire and Scottish unemployed as compared with employed groups were more negative and more depressed in the sense that they expected greater failure in various situations in the future.

… it is necessary to consider what happens to the unemployed man when he gets a job. From common observation, at least, it seems that the effects are almost immediate; the individual brightens up, regains his status in society, and with it his emotional stability, provided, of course, he was not maladjusted before unemployment.  However, if the unemployment was too long-lasting he probably has suffered to such an extent that it is very difficult for him to regain his stability.”

Peak Shrink’s Comment:  “Favorite line:  “…when he gets a job, the individual brightens up…”  For this reason, I’d suggest employment for those who are looking for work…

Review of “Psychology and the Motorist”. Johnson, H. M.; PVol 35(8), Oct, 1938. pp. 561-564:”

“Among the facts which the authors thus discovered, independently of all earlier authorities, are the following: (1) that the safety movement is infested by racketeers, each having some special gadget or service to sell at a high profit, (2) that among the propagandists for safety are many evangelists… (6) that driver examinations as now conducted do not eliminate the incompetent; (7) that traffic courts and the licensing of administrators do not re-educate accident makers and traffic offenders as they should; (8) that the designers of automobile bodies could make the modern car a less dangerous weapon than it  is; (9) that certain “driver-clinicians” have misled the public as to the significance and importance of certain personal traits, especially reaction time; If we really wish to have traffic regulated, facts gathered and interpreted, and accidents reduced, we must wait until drivers have learned to govern themselves, to assume some responsibility for the safety of all whom they may pass or meet, and to analyze their own behavior truthfully and impersonally; otherwise, we must establish a heavy and well-trained police force. Although the higher estimate requires less than fifteen dollars per registered vehicle per annum, I question whether our American drivers are yet willing to spend it, and also to submit to the restrictions that are necessary to make our highways reasonably safe.”

The educational value of “drivers’ clinics.” Johnson, H. M.; Cobb, P. W.;  Vol 35(10), Dec, 1938. pp. 758-766.


Everyone is entitled to be stupid, but some abuse the privilege.  – Unknown

Studies of mental resemblance between husbands and wives and between friends. Richardson, H. M.;  Vol 36(2), Feb, 1939. pp. 104-120.

Review of “Interracial marriage in Hawaii”.Porteus, S. D.; Vol 36(2), Feb, 1939. pp. 135-137:

“Hawaii has been called many things: the Paradise of the Pacific, a racial laboratory, the crossroads of the Pacific, America’s listening post towards the Orient—all designations more or less deserved.

From the human standpoint, an interracial poker game in which the whites have assumed the perpetual right to shuffle and deal the cards and call the turn would be, in the reviewer’s opinion, as apt an analogy as any. That it is as  friendly a game, with the players  borrowing and lending among themselves—and occasionally taking a peek at their opponents’ hands—is rather extraordinary. Adams  remarks on  their superior social morale and attributes to this their good record in the Territory.” Relative to numbers,” he says, “there are fewer  arrests and convictions,  there are fewer juvenile delinquents,  fewer who receive charitable aid,  fewer insane, fewer who are mentally defective.” The psychologist would, of course, suggest that at least some of these advantages are due not  only to “superior social morale” but also to superior biological  inheritance. Even their lessened tendency to  crime and delinquency may also indicate superior temperamental qualities, and the incidence of mental defect certainly is not dependent on social morale.”

Peak Shrink’s Comment:  “What a difference a day makes…”

Review of “Adventures in self-discovery”. Conklin, Edmund S.; Vol 36(2), Feb, 1939. pp. 137.

Progress report of the Committee on Displaced Foreign Psychologists. Burks, B. S.; Vol 36(3), Mar, 1939. pp. 188-190:

“The present  status,  training, and qualifications of  foreign psychologists who have been displaced  from their positions through political developments of the past 5  years.  The possibilities of utilizing and  conserving the potential  contributions of these scholars to academic, social, industrial, and other institutions The Society for the Protection of Science and Learning  (British) estimates in its November, 1938, report that “the total  number of teachers and research workers displaced since May, 1933,  from German universities and institutions of university rank is now approximately 1400.”  An additional 400 have been displaced  from Austrian institutions of equivalent rank since “Anschluss” in March.”

Peak Shrink’s Comment:  “The Nazi exodus of psychologists in the 1930’s gave our profession one of the largest reserve of brain talent we’d ever had, before or since…”

Automobile drivers can be improved. DeSilva, Harry R.; Vol 36(4), Apr, 1939. pp. 284-285.

Review of “Marihuana: America’s new drug problem”. Fernberger, Samuel W.;  Vol 36(4), Apr, 1939. pp. 300-301:

“…the history of the hashish vice—which is very ancient, its present distribution throughout the world, and the present status of the marihuana vice in the United States.  The use of this drug in some  form is very widespread throughout the world and has increased rapidly in the United States and Canada during the last few years. One difficulty with the suppression of the vice is the ease with which the drug may be procured. The hemp plant is easily obtained inasmuch as its fibers are of such great economic value. The plant adapts itself easily to almost any habitat and can be successfully grown almost anywhere in the civilized world and in favorable habitats actually survives as a weed. Also, it is easily administered by ingestion or by smoking, and it is not necessary to prepare or purify those parts of the plant which are used. Subjectively, the subject experiences a euphoria and either a complete anesthesia or at least a hypoesthesia. Many of the effects are similar to those described for peyote (mescaline).

Peak Shrink’s Comment:  “Almost sounds like an advertisement, doesn’t it?”

Academic psychology as a career for women. Available Fernberger, S. W.;  Vol 36(5), May, 1939. pp. 390-394:

Mary Ainsworth, PhD. A Seminal Thinker in Psychology

“The following analysis was initiated by the decision of a woman graduate student to seek an academic career in psychology, inasmuch as she was not interested in a position in the applied fields. The author held out small hopes for success and told her that he suspected that there were much better opportunities for a woman in a career in applied psychology. The student, in order to answer this argument, discovered that more than 250 women, who were Members or Associates of the American Psychological Association, were in academic positions of one sort or another. This number was so much larger than the author had expected that a more detailed analysis of the situation seemed advisable.”

The Monster Study

The Monster Study is considered one of the most unethical psychological experiments of all time. It was the name given to a stuttering experiment conducted by Wendell Johnson at the University of Iowa in 1939. Johnson chose one of his graduate students, Mary Tudor, to conduct the experiment and he supervised her research. Twenty-two young orphans were recruited to participate in the experiment. They were divided into two groups. Tudor gave positive speech therapy to half of the children, praising the fluency of their speech, and negative speech therapy to the other half, belittling the children for every speech imperfection and telling them they were stutterers. Many of the normal speaking orphan children who received negative therapy in the experiment suffered negative psychological effects and some retained speech problems for the rest of their lives. Dubbed “The Monster Study” by some of Johnson’s peers, who were horrified that he would experiment on orphan children to prove a hypothesis, the experiment was kept hidden for fear Johnson’s reputation would be tarnished in the wake of human experiments conducted by the Nazis during World War II. The University of Iowa publicly apologized for the Monster Study in 2001.

Review of “Art and prudence”. Available Jenkins, John G.;  Vol 36(5), May, 1939. pp. 395-397.

Review of “Allied propaganda and the collapse of the German Empire in 1918″. Doob, Leonard W.;  Vol 36(8), Oct, 1939. pp. 700-701:

The question that excites everyone as Europe plunges forward toward another war in 1939 is the extent to which events of 1914 are about to be repeated. Will the same propaganda appeals be employed again to weaken the morale of the  enemy?”

Review of “Crime and the man”. Metfessel, Milton; , Vol 36(8), Oct, 1939. pp. 706-708.

Peak Shrink’s Comment: “In all fairness, this review mocked this book.  But didn’t he have anything better to read?  Apparently not:”

“This volume is a semipopular presentation of voluminous anthropometric measures of 17,680 individuals,… ” a declaration that the primary cause of crime is biological inferiority” he found that, with thirtythree measures of cranial, facial, metric, and morphological features.

In this study he counted only the “Old American criminals,” after Hrdlicka‘s definition of ” Old Americans.” He has illustrations of  front and side views of what he calls “mosaics,” depicting the heads of the various State criminals on the basis of their significantly different characters.  First-degree murderers, for instance, are significantly different  from other criminals in excesses of stature and jaw breadth, to mention two out of their ten divergences out of a possible thirty-nine. Second-degree murderers significantly exceed other criminals in five items, two of which are excess of chest depth and deficiency of head height.

Hooton relates his nine body-build types of Old Americans—all combinations of three degrees of weight and height—to types of crime. As examples, short-heavy men rank first in rape, tall-slender men are first in robbery and second-degree murder, tall-medium-weight men are first in forgery, fraud, and extractives, and tall-heavy men lead in first-degree murder.

Another sample of the kind of differences Hooton found is that robbers had significant excesses over other criminals in nine items, such as attached ear lobes and iris diffused in pigment.


Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly.–Albert Einstein 1940

Review of “The psychology of physics”. Feigl, Herbert;  Vol 37(6), Jun, 1940. pp. 403.

Peak Shrink’s Comment:  “The review complained that it taught us nothing about either psychology nor physics.”

And finally I’ll end with an extended quote from Gordon Allport giving a speech as President of the American Psychological Association.  We, as psychologists would do well to heed his words, even today.

The psychologist’s frame of reference. Allport, G. W.; Vol 37(1), Jan, 1940. pp. 1-28:

“…a certain professional cleavage is developing. Psychologists using the fourteen journals studied are, in their writings, becoming more and more remote from living issues and more abstract in the presentation of their subject matter.  It also looks as if modern psychology were becoming appreciably unhistorical.

The psychological system-builders of the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries were filled with the lingering spirit of the Enlightenment which hated mystery and incompleteness. They wanted a synoptic view of man’s mental life. If moral and metaphysical dogmatism were needed to round out their conception of the complete man, they became unblushing dogmatists. Subjective immediatism must give way to a public outdoor attitude toward our knowledge. It is said that the very claim made by some psychologists that their work remains true to life, close to untrammeled common sense, is the very thing that disqualifies this work from being scientific (26, p. 178).  

A colleague, a good friend of mine, recently challenged me to name a single psychological problem not referable to rats for its solution. Considerably startled, I murmured something, I think, about the psychology of reading disability. But to my mind came flooding the historic problems of the aesthetic, humorous, religious, and cultural behavior of men. I thought how men build clavichords and cathedrals, how they write books, and how they laugh uproariously at Mickey Mouse; how they plan their lives five, ten, or twenty years ahead; how, by an elaborate metaphysic of their own contrivance, they deny the utility of their own experience, including the utility of the metaphysic that led them to this denial. I thought of poetry and puns, of propaganda and revolution, of stock markets and suicide, and of man’s despairing hope for peace. I thought, too, of the elementary fact that human problem-solving, unlike that of the rat, is saturated through and through with verbal function, so that we have no way of knowing whether the delay, the volition, the symbolizing and categorizing typical of human learning are even faintly adumbrated by findings in animal learning. We need to ask ourselves point-blank whether the problems we frame with our rats are unquestionably of the same order as the problems we envisage for human kind; and further, if we succeed in solving a problem for rats, how we are to make sure the findings hold for man unless we repeat the whole investigation on man himself ; and if we are forced to verify our principles by a separate study of man, whether we have the right to inveigh against the psychologist who prefers to study human manners and morals, since it is upon his work that the validation of our own will ultimately rest.  By studying rats, not men, we gain status as scientists, for like the natural sciences we can, in this line of investigation, employ precision techniques and operational modes of communication.

Father Charles Coughlin

This desire for status on our part is understandable, but because of it we are in danger of losing sight of the true source of the eminence of the elder sciences. Their enviable glory does not consist in their fidelity to a set of conventional methods, but rather in the unexampled power they have given mankind in predicting, understanding, and controlling the course of nature for mankind’s own benefit. As a mature science psychology, too, will find its justification, not in performing a ritual of method, but in contributing to humanity the power to achieve these ends.

Is it not true that apart from a narrow range of segmental reactions in the laboratory we psychologists can predict very little concerning human conduct? It is argued, of course, that sophistication in methodology will improve matters. Yet there are two grounds for doubting this claim. The man of common sense approaching our treatises for help finds that a large portion of his daily conduct is not only left unexplained, but is not represented at all. From agencies of government, industry, education, and human welfare come daily appeals for assistance in their service to mankind. Psychology, as science—may I repeat?—can be justified only by giving mankind practical control over its destinies, not by squatting happily on a carpet of prayer.


About Kathy McMahon

Kathy McMahon Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist who is internationally known for her writing about the psychological impacts of Peak Oil, climate change, and economic collapse. She's written for Honda Motors, and has been featured in American Prospect, Greenpeace International, the Vancouver Sun, Freakonomics, Itulip, Ecoshock Radio, and Peak Moments Television.


  1. Those who slay dragons for a living often develop a professional interest in the survival of the dragon. . .

  2. Nah, I don’t think of it that way. But bringing up Dragons, here’s a piece I just read about climate change dragons:
    Gifford, R. (2011). The dragons of inaction: Psychological barriers that limit climate change mitigation and adaptation. American Psychologist, 66(4), 290-302. doi:10.1037/a0023566

    I think there is no cross-fertilization. Specialization blinds people to larger social phenomenon. Social class plays a role too.

  3. Wow. This makes it looks like psychologists are *adverse* to the truth! I look at popular psychology magazines and I don’t think the field has gotten any better.

  4. Co-related thinking displayed. Truly a value addition to read!


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