New Histories of Psychology: Politics, Publics, and Power

This Consortium working group builds on a virtual community, founded in the midst of the pandemic to connect scholars working in the history of psychology. “New Histories of Psychology” seeks to integrate the subfield of history of psychology into the heart of the history of science by reading cutting-edge scholarship that highlights major themes in the history of science—from the role of experts to the popularization of science. Our monthly themes focus on the intersections of psychology with contemporary issues, showing how psychology has been bound up in politics, publics, and power throughout its history. The content of monthly meetings will vary session to session, including a mix of key texts, panel presentations on a common theme, and workshop opportunities for works-in-progress. We welcome scholars at all career stages and all disciplines, including those in related fields concerned with the history, sociology and ethnography of the human sciences, as well as psychologists interested in understanding the history of their discipline. We aim to create a multi-disciplinary space for pursuing theoretically-informed, critical histories of psychology, involving scholars from different institutions, disciplines, and career stages.

Upcoming Meetings

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  • Wednesday, January 27, 2021 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm EST

    Un(happy) Times
    We live in a world awash in emotion. Its experience, measurement, manipulation, and augmentation shape daily life. From feminist engagements with “public feelings” to the emergence of positive psychology as a third force to hot cognition in decision making, the affective realm has recently taken a more prominent place across numerous academic disciplines. How should we make historical sense of this “affective revolution”? Is the pursuit of happiness a political ideal or an existential curse? In this session, we focus on the long past and short history of (un)happiness.
    Sara Ahmed, "Killing Joy: Feminism and the History of Happiness," Signs 35, no. 3 (2010): 571-594.
    Content Warning: suicide
    Jennifer Senior, “Happiness Won’t Save You,” New York Times, November 24, 2020

  • Wednesday, February 24, 2021 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm EST

    What is “Behavioral” in Behavioral Economics?
    Behavioral economics has a particular hold on the twenty-first century (neo)liberal imagination. Following the 2008 financial crisis, the field of mathematical psychology went from the academic margins to the political mainstream as a scientifically respectable way of talking about human irrationality. In this session, we will scrutinize this ascendency, focusing on the popular dichotomy between thinking fast and slow, short- and long-term. Why did heuristics switch from making us smart in the 1950s to error-prone in the 1970s? Is the distinction between behavioral and neuro-economics a semantic or ontology one? Is brainhood a necessary component of dual process theories? Does the popularity of ‘nudges’ among policy-makers represent a behaviorist “counter-revolution” against cognitivism (and democracy)? How is behavioral economics’ critique of human judgment related to wider critiques and venerations of expertise?
    Natasha Dow Schüll and Caitlin Zaloom. "The shortsighted brain: Neuroeconomics and the governance of choice in time." Social Studies of Science 41, no. 4 (2011): 515-538.
    John McMahon, "Training for Neoliberalism," Boston Review (2015).

  • Wednesday, March 24, 2021 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm EDT


  • Wednesday, April 28, 2021 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm EDT


  • Wednesday, May 26, 2021 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm EDT


Group Conveners

  • kiralussier's picture

    Kira Lussier

    Kira Lussier is a historian of psychology, technology and business. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Toronto. Her work has been published in History of Psychology, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, Slate, and Aeon. Her current book manuscript, Personality, Incorporated, traces a history of psychological testing in North American business, science, and society.


  • Michael Pettit

    Michael Pettit is a professor of psychology at York University in Toronto. He is the author of Science of Deception: Psychology and Commerce in America (2013) and over a dozen scholarly articles on the history and public understanding of psychology. Website:


  • dana.simmons's picture

    Dana Simmons

    Dana Simmons is Associate Professor of History at U.C. Riverside specializing in the history of science and technology. Her research interests include hunger, nutrition, soil and plant science, political economy, the human sciences, feminist theory and technoscientific utopias.


  • Chad Valasek

    CJ Valasekis a Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology & Science Studies at University of California San Diego. CJ is currently finishing a dissertation on the racial origins of reaction time measures and discount rate models used in behavioral economics today.


  • Jacy Young

    Jacy L. Young is a critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology at Quest University Canada. Her research interrogates the methods, practices, and assumptions that shape knowledge production in psychology, as well as their attendant consequences. She has published on a diverse range of topics, including sexual harassment, questionnaires, intelligence testing, mindfulness, child study, big data, pedagogy, and evolutionary ideas. Website:


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