Article ID: CBB529674486

Through the Looking-Glass: PsycINFO as an Historical Archive of Trends in Psychology (2018)

unapi

Those interested in tracking trends in the history of psychology cannot simply trust the numbers produced by inputting terms into search engines like PsycINFO and then constraining by date. This essay is therefore a critical engagement with that longstanding interest to show what it is possible to do, over what period, and why. It concludes that certain projects simply cannot be undertaken without further investment by the American Psychological Association. This is because forgotten changes in the assumptions informing the database make its index terms untrustworthy for use in trend-tracking before 1967. But they can indeed be used, with care, to track more recent trends. The result is then a Distant Reading of psychology, with Digital History presented as enabling a kind of Science Studies that psychologists will find appealing. The present state of the discipline can thus be caricatured as the contemporary scientific study of depressed rats and the drugs used to treat them (as well as of human brains, mice, and myriad other topics). To extend the investigation back further in time, however, the 1967 boundary is also investigated. The author then delves more deeply into the prehistory of the database’s creation, and shows in a précis of a further project that the origins of PsycINFO can be traced to interests related to American national security during the Cold War. In short: PsycINFO cannot be treated as a simple bibliographic description of the discipline. It is embedded in its history, and reflects it. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved) (Source: journal abstract)

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Authors & Contributors
Weldon, Stephen P.
Testa, Simone
Flis, Ivan
Smith, Ailie
Rui Costa
Fox Lee, Shayna
Journals
IEEE Annals of the History of Computing
History of Psychology
Circumscribere: International Journal for the History of Science
Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine
Configurations: A Journal of Literature, Science, and Technology
Publishers
Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura
Brepols Publishers
University of Chicago
Concepts
Databases
Relational databases; management
Digital humanities
Data collection
Information technology
Business and commerce
People
Codd, E. F.
Time Periods
21st century
20th century, late
Medieval
Enlightenment
20th century
18th century
Places
Italy
France
Europe
Canada
California (U.S.)
Rome (Italy)
Institutions
International Business Machines Corporation
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