The Cult of Experiment: The Psychological Round Table, 1936–1941.

by Gary Hardcastle

History of Psychology, Vol 3(4), Nov 2000, 344-370.

Abstract

  1. The Psychological Round Table (PRT) was an important yet anomalous society founded by young American experimental psychologists. Although it was secretive, it encouraged contact among young experimental psychologists. Although it was motivated by perceived inequities in professional psychology, it was governed by an autocratic minority. And although it was self-consciously informal and irreverent, it clandestinely used formal selection procedures. These aspects of the PRT are documented and explained (counter to L. Benjamin, 1977) as manifestations of the PRT’s devotion to psychological experimentation, specially understood. Secrecy, specifically, served not to protect PRT participants from senior colleagues but to create an environment free of political and professional influences and thus taken to be well suited to the vetting of experiments. In this regard, the PRT is distinguished from more familiar scientific societies.
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