HUHI 6305 students – this is a description of a research project that I’ve been working on lately that I’ve been planning on discussing a bit on the blog, not because it is relevant to any particular week’s discussion, but because it is an interesting case study for supplementing the general discussions of the course, exemplifying many of the themes that carry on from week to week. I also want to put it up as an example of what I’m looking for in your project descriptions for those choosing the blog-based option
Everyone: I would be grateful for any comments or references on the abstract and the themes I’m planning to discuss. I’ve been engaged in work on Marston and close reading of his theories for some time, but this is my first major research project in history and philosophy of psychology, and I would appreciate pointers.
While at best, William Moulton Marston is remembered today in the history of psychology for making contributions to the creation of the lie detector test, he was in his time, particularly in the 1920’s, a major figure both within the discipline of psychology and in the public eye. Indeed, at his peak Marston’s public exposure probably rivaled the likes of Freud, Skinner, or Chomsky as a public face of psychology, though his theories had nothing like their lasting influence, and his time in the limelight was considerably shorter. Despite the fact that his theories had little impact on the subsequent development of the field of psychology, Marston’s work is instructive in several ways for philosophers of science and philosophers of psychology. Besides being a highly interesting early attempt to draw conclusions about emotions and cognition on the basis of work in neuroscience, it is an interesting case study in the relation between science and values. Marston’s research is inflected by his (unorthodox) feminist values and parallels in important ways the work of feminist scientists since the 1980’s who have insisted that the introduction of enlightened (including feminist) values into scientific research can be a positive methodological resource. Marston’s theories also imply strong normative conclusions for psycho-emotional health and education, claims which do not depend on and are not consistent with statistically average behavior or dominant social norms. His book on the emotions culminates in a chapter on emotional re-education, which he later enacts through various forms of what he calls “psychological propaganda”: popular psychology books like Try Living (1937) and March On! (1941), articles on psychology for various magazines like Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, and Reader’s Digest, a novel called Venus With Us: A Tale of the Caesar (1932) and creating the iconic comic book superheroine, Wonder Woman (the other achievement for which Marston is very well known). Marston thus provides us with an unusual study of the goals and applications of psychological research, including the potential uses of popularization and popular culture as a mode of scientific application. In this essay, I will examine the main features of Marston’s psychological theories, primarily as set out in his main works, The Emotions of Normal People (1928) and Integrative Psychology (1931), against the context of Marston’s values as exhibited through his statements and what is known about his personal life. I will look at the mutual interactions between science and values in his work: first, I will examine the parallels between Marston’s work and other value-laden feminist research; then, I will look at the various ways that Marston applies his research towards the attempt to reform individuals and society.