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September 26th, 2013 at 8pm


Jacy Young, York University


" get a mass of facts": Questionnaires and Research on the Limits of Experience


Although research into the mind of the child was some of the first and most abundant of the psychological investigations undertaken with the questionnaire in the late-nineteenth century, other avenues of inquiry were also pursued. Notably, many of these extra-child study investigations took as their object of study psychological experiences on the borderlands of normal day-to-day experience. This includes research by William James on hallucinations, under the auspices of the American Society for Psychical Research; research by Mary Whiton Calkins on synæsthesia; research by biologist Henry Fairfield Osborn on mental imagery, including the experience of what would today be termed déjà vu; research by Edwin Starbuck on religious conversion experiences; and Henry Hebert Goddard’s study of faith cures. This paper looks at these investigations in terms of how the collecting practices associated with questionnaires lent themselves particularly well to the study of subjects that seemed otherwise outside the purview of scientific psychology. This presentation is based on the third chapter of my dissertation on the history of the questionnaire in early American psychology, 1880-1930.


I am a doctoral student in the History and Theory of Psychology Program at York University. My research interests are largely in the area of late-nineteenth and early twentieth century American psychology. Much of my previous research has dealt with intersections of psychology and biology with respect to evolutionary theory. More recently my work has focused on the history of research methods in psychology. I am currently working on a project on early questionnaire research in American psychology, which traces the shift from the accumulation of descriptive accounts of human experience to that of numerical data.



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