On This Day … 06 January

People (Births)

  • 1915 – John C. Lilly, American psychoanalyst, physician, and philosopher (d. 2001).

People (Deaths)

  • 1852 – Louis Braille, French educator, invented Braille (b. 1809).
  • 2014 – Julian Rotter, American psychologist and academic (b. 1916).

John C. Lilly

John Cunningham Lilly (06 January 1915 to 30 September 2001) was an American physician, neuroscientist, psychoanalyst, psychonaut, philosopher, writer and inventor. He was a member of a generation of counterculture scientists and thinkers that included Ram Dass, Werner Erhard and Timothy Leary, all frequent visitors to the Lilly home. He often stirred controversy, especially among mainstream scientists.

Lilly conducted high-altitude research during World War II and later trained as a psychoanalyst. He gained renown in the 1950s after developing the isolation tank. He saw the tanks, in which users are isolated from almost all external stimuli, as a means to explore the nature of human consciousness. He later combined that work with his efforts to communicate with dolphins. He began studying how bottlenose dolphins vocalize, establishing centres in the US Virgin Islands and, later, San Francisco to study dolphins. A decade later, he began experimenting with psychedelics, including LSD, often while floating in isolation. His work inspired two Hollywood movies, The Day of the Dolphin (1973) and Altered States (1980).

Louis Braille

Louis Braille (04 January 1809 to 06 January 1852) was a French educator and inventor of a system of reading and writing for use by the blind or visually impaired. His system remains virtually unchanged to this day, and is known worldwide simply as braille.

Blinded at the age of three in one eye as a result of an accident with a Stitching awl in his father’s harness making shop, an infection set in and spread to both eyes, resulting in total blindness. He excelled in his education and received a scholarship to France’s Royal Institute for Blind Youth. While still a student there, he began developing a system of tactile code that could allow blind people to read and write quickly and efficiently. Inspired by the military cryptography of Charles Barbier, Braille constructed a new method built specifically for the needs of the blind. He presented his work to his peers for the first time in 1824.

In adulthood, Louis Braille served as a professor at the Institute and had an avocation as a musician, but he largely spent the remainder of his life refining and extending his system. It went unused by most educators for many years after his death, but posterity has recognised braille as a revolutionary invention, and it has been adapted for use in languages worldwide.

Julian Rotter

Julian B. Rotter (22 October 1916 to 06 January 2014) was an American psychologist known for developing influential theories, including social learning theory and locus of control. He was a faculty member at The Ohio State University and then the University of Connecticut. A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Rotter as the 64th most cited psychologist of the 20th century.

Background

Rotter was born in 1916 in Brooklyn, New York, United States, as the third son of Jewish immigrant parents. In the years of elementary and secondary schools, he became interested with psychology and philosophy through readings. Rotter attended Brooklyn College in 1933, where he earned his undergraduate degree. He majored in Chemistry even though he found psychology to be more fascinating due to the fact that there were more opportunities to make money, while the economy was failing. While studying in Brooklyn College, Wood and Solomon Asch, teachers at the college, influenced his development as a psychologist. Wood inspired him by his lectures on the scientific method. Asch was intensely involved in the controversy between Gestalt and Thorndykian views of learning and thus he influenced Rotter’s interest in psychology. He then earned a master’s degree at the University of Iowa, studying there under Kurt Lewin.

After he earned his master’s degree at the University of Iowa, he was able to obtain an internship at the Worcester State Hospital. At the time it may have been the only formal internship in psychology. While at Worcester State Hospital, David Shakow, Saul Rosenzweig, and Elliot Rodnick provided stimulation and training in research and practice in clinical psychology. Worcester was also where he met Clara Barnes, another intern whom he later married. Through his work with Kurt Lewin, he became interested with a level of aspiration. Worcester was also where he had designed and built the Level of Aspiration Board as an individual personality measure. He continued his work at the Indiana University where he encountered success and failure using the level of aspiration paradigms at Indiana University; he earned a doctorate at Indiana in 1941. Through his education, Rotter was influenced by Alfred Adler, Clark Hull, B.F. Skinner, and Edward Tolman. He was influenced by Wendell Johnson, a general semanticist, who impressed on him the need for careful definitions in psychology and the myriad of pitfalls involved in poorly defined and poorly operationalised constructs. In 1963, Rotter moved to the University of Connecticut, and became the director of clinical training. The Interpersonal Trust Scale, a research measure of the stable individual difference in personality, was developed by Rotter around that time.

After earning his doctorate, Rotter became an adviser to the United States Army during World War II. In the Army, Rotter worked as a psychologist, except for 17 weeks in officer candidate training as a tank officer. He then went to Ohio State University, where he taught and served as the chairman of the clinical psychology programme. At Ohio State, Rotter was influenced by George Kelly. Rotter then went to the University of Connecticut, where he remained for his career. Rotter was also appointed as president of the American Psychological Association Division of Clinical Psychology, the Eastern Psychological Association, as well as the American Psychology Association Division of Social and Personality Psychology.

Rotter’s seminal work, Social Learning and Clinical Psychology was published in 1954. In 1963, he became the Program Director of Clinical Psychology at the University of Connecticut.

He died at the age of 97 on January 6, 2014 at his home in Mansfield, Connecticut.

Social Learning Theory

Rotter moved away from theories based on psychoanalysis and behaviourism, and developed a social learning theory. In Social Learning and Clinical Psychology (1954), Rotter suggested that the expected effect or outcome of the behaviour influences the motivation of people to engage in that behaviour. People wish to avoid negative consequences, while desiring positive results or effects. If one expects a positive outcome from a behaviour, or thinks there is a high probability of a positive outcome, then they will be more likely to engage in the behaviour. The behaviour is reinforced, with positive outcomes, leading a person to repeat the behaviour. This social learning theory suggests that behaviour is influenced by social context or environmental factors, and not psychological factors alone.

Locus of Control

In 1966, Rotter published his famous I-E scale in the journal “Psychological Monographs”, to assess internal and external locus of control. This scale has been widely used in the psychology of personality, although its use of a two-alternative forced choice technique has made it subject to criticism. Rotter himself was astounded by how much attention this scale generated, claiming that it was like lighting a cigarette and seeing a forest fire. He himself believed that the scale was an adequate measure of just two concepts, achievement motivation (which he took to be linked with internal locus of control) and outer-directedeness, or tendency to conform to others (which he took to be associated with external locus of control). Critics of the scale have frequently voiced concern that locus of control is not as homogenous a concept as Rotter believed. According to him the locus of control of an individual’s behaviour in the case of ‘propagation’ lies within the individual whereas it lies outside the individual in the case of ‘conversion’. (Clearly depicting how religious propagation is different from religious conversion)

Legacy

Rotter has been reported as one of the most eminent psychologists of the 20th century. He was 18th in frequency of citations in journal articles and 64th in overall eminence. His seminal studies of the variable of internal versus external locus of control provided the foundation of prolific research into choice and perceived control in several disciplines. His pioneer social learning framework transformed behavioural approaches to personality and clinical psychology.

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