The latest issue of The Psychologist magazine has just been published online and it features two open-access articles (here and here) that together drag psychology’s classic tales out from the back of the cupboard, dust them down and cast them in a new, refreshing light.
For example, Phineas Gage is traditionally described as having been transformed by his brain injury into a “restless, moody, unpredictable, untrustworthy, depraved, slovenly, violently quarrelsome, aggressive and boastful dissipated drunken bully, displaying fits of temper, and with impaired sexuality” and yet the historical record shows that he went on to work as a coach driver which would have required him to “deal politely with the passengers, load their luggage (up to 50 pounds each), and collect fares, and so on, before beginning a 13-hour journey over 100 miles of poor roads, often in times of political instability or frank revolution.” In his intriguing article, Malcolm Macmillan, Professorial Fellow in the Department of Psychology at the University of Melbourne, wonders if Gage might actually have shown significant recovery from his injuries. Such a conclusion would “add to current evidence that rehabilitation can be effective even in difficult and long-standing cases. But it would also mean that theoreticians of frontal lobe functioning would have to consider whether the lobes themselves and their functions were much more plastic than we now think,” Macmillan writes.
From the second article we discover that some of the bystanders who allegedly watched Kitty Genovese’s murder without helping, may actually have been more altruistic than we realised. We also learn that Asch’s experiments in some ways demonstrated people’s powers of independence, not their propensity for conformity; that Little Albert really didn’t develop a fear of all things furry; and that the Hawthorne Effect has become a catch-all term with such vague meaning as to be useless.