Towards a Comprehensive History of Psychology in Canada:
Hermeneutics and Iterative Interpretations

Randal G. Tonks
Simon Fraser University



This issue has been dedicated to the history of psychology in Canada. While the emphasis has not been to provide a full and complete history of all psychological activities in Canada's past, it has been to delineate several important themes of research and training for psychologists in Canada. As a result, the contributions to this present issue have been developed through several analyses of the three principle journals of the Canadian Psychological Association (the CPA). These journal are: 1) The Canadian Psychologist/Canadian Psychological Review/Canadian Psychology, 2) The Canadian Journal of Psychology, and 3) The Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science.

History of the CPA and its Journals

Wright and Myers (1982) provide the most comprehensive account of the history of academic psychology in english Canada thus far compiled. They suggest that much of the early work done at Canadian universities was associated with departments of philosophy and religion. More recently, however, Wright and others (1992) have elaborated on the more formal beginnings of an independent psychology in Canada with the establishment of the Canadian Psychological Association in 1938 (Wright, 1992; Fergusson, 1992). At that time several Canadian psychologists contributed substantially to the selection of aviation pilots for the RAF and the RCAF. Ever since that time there has been a great deal of discourse over the nature of psychology in Canada, especially over the roles of science and applied practice in graduate student training.

The first publication of the Canadian Psychological Association came only two years after its inception, with the appearance of The Bulletin in 1940 under the editorship of Donald O. Hebb. By 1947, well after Hebb left Queens for Florida to work at the Yerkes lab, the Bulletin's name was changed as it became The Canadian Journal of Psychology, published under the mandate: "The journal publishes experimental and theoretical papers in all recognized fields of psychology". In 1987, however, its mandate read: "The Journal publishes empirical and theoretical papers in general experimental psychology."

Turning to what has become the CPA's central journal, it is noteworthy to point out that several changes have occurred in both name and mandate since its inception. Beginning in 1951, The Canadian Psychologist published many articles dealing with the training of psychologists as well as the 'public image' of psychology in Canada; reflecting a great concern over the professional identity of psychology in Canada. Nine years later, for reasons unknown, this journal changed its numbering system in going from volume 9 in 1959 to volume 1a in 1960. This system continued through to volume 9a in 1969 and then to volume 10 in 1970.

In 1970 the mandate of this journal was to publish articles about "psychological affairs, evaluative reviews, theory and articles of technological significance." A year later it was amended to include articles with a ". . . technological orientation and books reviews", and three years afterwards the statement: "and original research having technological importance" was amended to the end of the mandate. One year after that, in 1975, the name of the journal was changed to The Canadian Psychological Review, whose mandate was to publish articles from:

general psychology including interpretive, theoretical, discipline bridging and mission scholarship, evaluative reviews, brief comments on psychological affairs and organizational psychology.

Without providing a detailed content analysis of this journal, let it be said that by 1980 a greater proliferation of psychology in Canada was accompanied with a further elaboration on the mandate of the journal as it once again had changed its name. Then, as today, the journal was called Canadian Psychology whose 1980 mandate presented it as a:

generalist, professional affairs and applied journal by the Canadian Psychological Association . . . [which] publishes: the CPA's own news and reports; reviews of books by Canadian Psychologists; studies of psychology as a profession; and articles - theoretical, integrative, or practical - of interest to a broad cross-section of Canadian psychologists.

And most recently, in 1993, the mandate was again changed to the more simple form of:

to present generalist articles in areas of theory, research, and practice that are potentially of interest to a broad cross-section of psychologists.

This Issue: A Collection of Histories of Psychology in Canada

The conceptual creation of this special issue occurred last spring when I was given the opportunity to teach (for my first time) a course on the history of modern psychology (psychology 308). While preparing the course outline I decided to create a portion of the students' workload which would enable them to get some first-hand experience in providing a historical account of the activities in our discipline. Part of the reasoning behind this pedagogical activity was that because this course would likely be the first (and possibly the only) course on the history of psychology that most of these students would take; I felt responsible in giving them the best opportunity possible to gain some sense of perspective on and through history. Such a sense of perspective, as is appreciated in Kuhn's (1970) notion of "paradigm", is acquired, according to Kuhn, through the ritual or exemplary use of the perspective itself. Thus following Kuhn, armed with a philosophy of teaching that emphasizes the acquisition of new perspectives through the actual participation in creating and using exemplars of various paradigms (ideologies) of science and psychology (Tonks, 1995), I set out to encourage my students to develop some kind of personal relationship with their history of psychology in our country. As such, following the pleas of various established members of the Canadian community of historians and philosophers of psychology (e.g., Francis Cherry, 1994 and Charles Tolman, 1994) who have pointed out that there is both a great need to understand the history of psychology in Canada and only a handful of published sources on this topic, I made it possible for the students in my psyc 308 class to look into the history of the CPA's three principle journals for information that could be presented to the broader "public" for perusal and understanding of the history of our discipline.

Division of Labour

To begin, I arranged for the eight tutorial groups to be divided up into smaller groups of about 4-5 people in order that they could 1) work more efficiently (without having to come to complete consensus as an entire class) and 2) rely upon each other for support in coming to some kind of understanding of the history that they were going to produce. These smaller groups were expected to be the primary level of operation and creation of this historical account, although some thought and consideration was made about/for the entire tutorial groups (15-20 people) to have some common threads or themes that would tie together their reports.

Establishing Perspectives

The issue of perspective arose along side of many concerns over the necessary size of the groups of people who must share a perspective or paradigm of history. After initially dividing the journals amongst the groups, it became apparent that a level of general consensus within an entire tutorial would be difficult and that it would be easier to have the students simply "cut and paste" their sections into a whole report on the assigned journal for the years specified. To make matters more difficult to achieve, the fact that there were three "Teaching Assistants" (TAs) for the course, myself and the two Robs, agreement to this mandate became impossible. One of the Robs and I agreed very much with this approach and made good use of it. The other Rob, however, felt a greater need to ensure that a single theme was addressed by all of the small groups within a given tutorial. Additionally, it also became evident that all of the tutorial classes were not of the same size, a fact that made it difficult to have the same expectations of each group. The upshot of this was that the smaller tutorials were able to more easily come to agreement on a single perspective or orientation for their historical account than were the larger groups.

Three Types of Perspective: Inside/Outside, Zeitgeist & Trend Analysis

This observation may not be entirely evident, as already suggested, that one of the TAs took a stronger stance on getting a single theme (even in his larger groups). The upshot of all of this is that the first (A review of the Canadian Psychologist 1960 to 1979) and fourth reports (A review of the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science from 1965 to 1995) were constructed under my direction while the second (A review of the Canadian Psychological Review/Canadian Psychologist from 1976 to 1995), fifth (A zeitgeist approach to professional psychology: Canadian Psychology against the context of Maclean's Magazine) and sixth (Health isses within Canadian psychology) reports were compiled under the direction of Rob Roy., while the third (Canadian Journal of Psychology: A review of subject, language, funding, experimental vs. clinical, and place of origin of research articles published from 1974 to 1992), seventh (Topic trend analysis of the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science (from 1975-1995)) and eighth (Twenty years of Canadian Psychology) reports were developed under the direction of Rob Zanatta. As the reader can easily see, the reports vary tremendously in terms of the scope and perspective taken in the constructing of these historical accounts.

The first and fourth reports, (A review of the Canadian Psychologist 1960 to 1979 and A review of the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science from 1965 to 1995), take a bifurcated perspective on understanding the psychology of the day. Here the "insider" and "outsider" perspectives are used as they respectively reveal the context (e.g.., other sciences) and major concerns of discussion and debate (e.g.., applied vs. 'pure' psychology) that exist around, and in, the practice of psychology in Canada. This distinction between the insider and outsider perspectives is one that was presented in class as a major dialectic in taking perspectives on the history of psychology.

According to Kurt Danziger (1994) the insider perspective typically entails some kind of "feel-good" whigishness that is expected in a modern "natural scientific" discipline. Such historical perspectives consider the present state of knowledge to be both greater in volume and scope as well as better (more truthful) than earlier accounts within their given discipline. As such, "insider" historians of a field like psychology will typically exalt the heroes of the past (e.g., Wundt & Watson) as their works are reported to have led to the (natural & logical) development of our modern superior theories (Boring, 1950; Schultz & Schultz, 1987; Leahey, 1992). Here, history, like knowledge, is considered to be objective and factual where a "piecemeal" construction of the structure of science is built, brick by brick.

Alternatively, the outsider perspective is one that Danziger suggests is born out of a critical appraisal of the social and political influences on the development of a given discipline. Here the "critical historian" perspective on the historical account is itself recognized as a construction (an interpretation) of the past events and ideas; including the meaning and acceptance of such theories or perspectives. As such, Danziger (1990) clearly points out how various concentric levels of social influence interact in the social construction of psychology as a discipline with "legitimate knowledge claims". Together, these two global perspectives were presented to the students in this history of psychology class as possible perspectives that they could use in constructing their histories of these journals. Another theme that is common the several of these reports is the consideration of the "zeitgeist" at the time of publication of these journals. Here, the second (A review of the Canadian Psychological Review / Canadian Psychology from 1976 to 1995), fifth (A zeitgeist approach to professional psychology: Canadian Psychology against the context of Maclean's Magazine) and sixth (Health issues within Canaidan psychology) reports take this perspective which is one that is very similar to the "outsider" perspective insofar as it attempts to consider the psychological ideas presented against a context of social concerns. In several of these reports a single theme of psychological research (e.g., health, family or women's issues) was focused upon rather than attempting to account for the numerous themes or topics that may have emerged throughout the time span specified; these students chose to focus on specific articles and their empirical results. While my initial expectations of this task of constructing a historical account was that the students would make use of the kind of frequency survey that Kurt Danziger (1990) so carefully analyzed in his account of the origins of psychological practice, I was a little surprised at these more typically "insider" accounts of the various studies as they fit into the various "zeitgeists" of concern (e.g., health, family, and women's issues).

The last collection of reports, those created under the direction of Rob Z. (3 - Canadian Journal of Psychology: A review of subject, language, funding, experimental vs. clinical, and place of origin of research articles published from 1974 to 1992; 7 - Topic trend analysis of the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science (from 1975-1995); and 8 - Twenty years of Canadian Psychology), met my initial expectations quite well. Here there are three independent reports which focus upon various themes or topics of psychological research as they grow and shrink in their frequency of publication. This is the type of historical research that I initially had in mind for these group projects, however, I am happy to say that I am pleased with all of these reports because of the diversity of perspective that they entail. Within other reports, such as number four, there are the "outsider", thematic, and zeitgeist approaches, a mix which I believe is representative of the entire collection. As a final note on these thematic accounts, one report (number seven) made exceptional use of graphs in providing a visual record of the their trend analysis, however, due to technical difficulties we were not able to reproduce these figures. We do hope that we will be able to upgrade this present file at some future date where we will provide the reader with such figures and other clickable items.

Hermeneutics and History

The final theme to be presented here in this editorial introduction is of hermeneutics and interpretation. As clearly outlined by Woolfolk, Sass, and Messer (1988), hermeneutics is many a different things. These many things can be grouped into three principle orientations or concerns: 1) the ontological, 2) the critical, and 3) the methodological. First, hermeneutics involves a sensitivity to the critical "self-appraisal" of one's own ontological assumptions (about reality) about what is a person, a society, or the natural world; and how such entities interact. Second, hermeneutics also involves a sensitivity to the influence of one's set of values including the relationship between one's goals for the production and practical use of knowledge and the activities one carries out as an academic or professional. Here, the critical work of a host of philosophers of science, society, and human relations provide the valuable voices which question the goals, purposes, and uses of knowledge in science and society. Finally, the hermeneuticist is most likely to be identified a someone who ascribes to the methodological orientation which accepts the dictum that "there is no understanding without pre-understanding". This dictum represents the "hermeneutical circle" of understanding where knowledge is viewed as emerging out of an ever changing context of background knowledge (e.g., language, colloquial meanings, and one's previous experiences). This is the aspect of hermeneutics that is most easily recognized by persons who have heard the word before, an orientation that draws from a tradition of the interpretation of sacred texts; one that is most clearly applicable to the historical analysis of these various texts of psychology in Canada.

Against this backdrop I expect that various readers of Psybernetika will come to understand the role of interpretation in the history of psychology. This should be evident from the fact that various accounts published here have relied upon the same sources of information (journals) but have ended up emphasizing different points and issues of concern. It is also expected that future issues of Psybernetika will be devoted to this same exercise. Once those reports are published, it should become even more clear that different groups of students can take the exact same texts (journals) and interpret them very differently. When those reports (which are currently being written) are published, I expect to encourage a third group of psych 308 students to examine these two sets of earlier reports in order that they provide their own interpretations of the similarities and differences that I expect will occur. Finally, in publishing that third set of reports on the history of these journals I expect that the role of interpretation should come through, as there will be a good set of accounts taken from a consistent source of information.

It is through the production, interpretation, and critical appraisal of these kinds of inter-related reports that I hope the students of Simon Fraser University can demonstrate themselves to be worthy of the "Maclean's Ranking" of our institution as one of the best universities in Canada. Over and above such public honours, I think it is more important that these budding Canadian psychologists can contribute to the understanding of the history of psychological practice in Canada, a legacy that I do feel proud to leave for the next generation of Canadian psychologists.

Randal G. Tonks
Editor, Psybernetika December 15, 1995


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