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"The emotional life of the laboratory dog: W. Horsley Gantt and the conditional reflex method" Edmund Ramsden (Queen Mary, University of London)

Egenis seminar series

Egenis seminar series. Inspired by the work of Ivan Pavlov, and seeking to establish an experimental psychopathology, from the 1920s, American psychiatrists, physiologists and psychologists began to turn to the animal laboratory. My talk will focus on the use of the conditional reflex method for the study of “experimental neurosis” in dogs by W. Horsley Gantt at Johns Hopkins University. It will explore the ways in which Gantt struggled with, and ultimately reinterpreted, the persistent problems of emotional reaction and idiosyncratic behaviour among his research animals. While both the animal laboratory and the conditioning method are more commonly associated with the predictable, the general and the uniform, they provided Gantt with the means to build an experimental psychiatry focused upon the problem of individual difference, and mount a sustained critique of over-generalization and excessive determinism in science. A focus on Gantt’s laboratory work opens the door to a more complicated understanding of the reception and interpretation of the Pavlovian method, and to the important role played by non-human animals, individually conceived and personally affected and interconnected, in the behavioural, medical and life sciences.

Event details


Byrne House