IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

How the mind worked: some obstacles and developments in the popularisation of psychology


  • Adams, Jon


Chronicling the history of science and health popularisation in the United States, John C. Burnham sees a decline from the Victorian “men of science” to a situation in the mid-1980s where what passed as the popularisation of science consisted of little more than a litany of unrelated facts. Burnham’s contention is that these “scientific facts” will not travel as such (that is, as scientific facts) unless they are firmly embedded within a coherent scientific framework. It is this framework – a theory capable of organising the data – that he perceives to be lacking from the modern popularisation. Whilst this may have been the case at the time Burnham was writing (the mid-1980s), it is a position that is increasingly untenable today. Looking here at the popularisation of psychology, this paper demonstrates how those unifying theories have since returned. Through a close reading of Steven Pinker’s 1997 How The Mind Works (in comparison with Cyril Burt’s 1933 book of the same title), this paper illustrates the ways in which facts and theories are interpolated by the modern populariser in precisely the manner that Burnham feared had been abandoned forever.

Suggested Citation

  • Adams, Jon, 2006. "How the mind worked: some obstacles and developments in the popularisation of psychology," Economic History Working Papers 22540, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:wpaper:22540

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: Open access version.
    Download Restriction: no

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • Z10 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - General


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ehl:wpaper:22540. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (LSERO Manager on behalf of EH Dept.). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.