In the late 1980s I taught a course on humanistic psychology during which I talked about its origins in the 1960s. In discussion a student said, "Dr. Korn, tell us about the sixties," a clear clue to me that I was aging. A sense of the importance and excitement of that period came back as I read Frederick Heide's review of The Harvard Psychedelic Club: How Timothy Leary, Ram Dass, Huston Smith, and Andrew Weil Killed the Fifties and Ushered in a New Age for America by Don Lattin. This is the story of the rise and transformation (good and bad) of Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, Andrew Weil, and Huston Smith from early experiences with psychedelic drugs (mostly LSD), through serious though poorly designed research to divergent individual paths.
Heide's review refers to "the dizzy sense of possibility that characterized America in the 1960s." That excitement also was present in psychology: humanistic psychology developed to challenge established approaches, cognitive psychologists were using computers (big ones) to simulate human thought, and social psychologists were using elaborate (and deceptive) stage productions in their research.
By the end of the century psychology's involvement with pharmacology came to focus on prescription privileges for clinicians, humanistic psychology became marginal, brain imaging replaced the computer simulation, and social psychologists rarely ventured beyond paper and pencil instruments.
Were the 1960s really a time of unusual creativity and excitement in psychology, or am I just being nostalgic? And I didn't inhale.
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