A Pioneering Pop Psychologist
Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 12:57PM
Jack El-Hai in joseph jastrow, psychology, psychology

Years ago I read somewhere about an eminent experimental psychologist who suffered a mental breakdown, endured years of depression, and abandoned the laboratory to instead help lay people apply the ideas of modern psychology to their lives. Joseph Jastrow (Wikimedia Commons) 

That man, I found out, was Joseph Jastrow (1863-1944), and I’ve written a post about his activities as America’s first pop psychologist for the Wonders & Marvels blog that I contribute to every month. If you read the post, please let me know what you think.

Jastrow often wrote and lectured on our strong desire to believe what figures of authority tell us, even when scientific evidence does not support what we long to accept. For years he applied this theme to the work of spiritualists, psychics, and mediums. I mention that in my Wonders & Marvels post, but I didn’t have room to include a short poem of Jastrow’s on the topic:

“There’s a sucker born every minute.” 

Barnum said it; there’s sad truth in it

What burns me up, and turns me sour

Is that a crook is born every hour.

The poem, dated 1943, appears in the article “Joseph Jastrow, the Psychology of Deception, and the Racial Economy of Observation” by Michael Pettit, published in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, Vol. 43(2), Spring 2007, pp. 159-175.

Article originally appeared on Jack El-Hai | Writer and speaker (http://www.el-hai.com/).
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