From Phrenology to the Laboratory: physiological psychology and the institution of science in Britain (c.1830–80)

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The claim that mind is an epiphenomenon of the nervous system became academically respectable during the 19th century. The same period saw the establishment of an ideal of science as institutionalized endeavour conducted in laboratories. This article identifies three ways in which the ‘physiological psychology’ movement in Britain contributed to the latter process: first, via an appeal to the authority of difficult-to-access sites in the analysis of nerves; second, through the constitution of a discourse internal to it that privileged epistemology over ontology; and third, in its articulation of a set of rhetorical tools that identified laboratories as economically productive institutions. Acknowledging the integral place of physiological psychology in the institution of science, it is claimed, has the potential to alter our understanding of the significance of current neurological science for historical scholarship.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-73
JournalHistory of the Human Sciences
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jun 2014