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UNH researcher discovers research manipulated to support pro-eugenic beliefs
Date:8/10/2011

DURHAM, N.H. A University of New Hampshire researcher has discovered that a former Yale professor who espoused pro-eugenic beliefs manipulated his research findings so he could conclude that his Wisconsin home town was overflowing with mentally and morally "unfit" people.

Benjamin Harris, professor of psychology and affiliate professor of history at UNH, has found that Yale psychologist Arnold Gesell manipulated the photographic record by selectively choosing photos to make his pro-eugenic case in his piece "The Village of a Thousand Souls." Published in 1913 in "The American Magazine," the widely read article accused Gesell's hometown of Alma, Wisc., of being overrun with "hereditary defectives."

Harris's discovery of Gesell's deception is detailed in the most recent issue of the journal History of Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association.

In the 1940s and 1950s, Gesell was widely regarded as the nation's foremost authority on child rearing and development, and developmental quotients based on his development schedules were widely used as an assessment of children's intelligence, according to the Encyclopedia of Psychology. "Until Benjamin Spock emerged in the late 1940s as an advice-giver, Arnold Gesell's guides to child development were the manuals of choice for the nation's mothers," Harris said.

In "The Village of a Thousand Souls," Gesell called for the observation and segregation of the "unfit" as a eugenic measure. Harris discovered that Gesell manipulated the photographic record to support his thesis, even substituting a photo of a different town because it showed a "saloon" sign that was lacking in Alma.

Gesell's research relied on his father's collection photographs documenting decades of life in Alma, Wisc. Gesell's father, Gerhard Gesell, owned photo studio in the town for many years, and his collection included images of streets of respectable-looking buildings, parades
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Contact: Benjamin Harris
bh5@cisunix.unh.edu
603-617-6064
University of New Hampshire
Source:Eurekalert

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