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Reading Traces in Eels and Faces: Historical Roots of Semiotic Thinking in Psychology

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Part of the Theory and History in the Human and Social Sciences book series (THHSS)

Abstract

This chapter explores the origins and development of semiotic thinking before the emergence of modern cultural psychology. Sigmund Freud’s physiological research is taken as a starting point to introduce the practice of ‘reading traces’ as a distinctive scientific method. Following the historian Carlo Ginzburg, it is argued that this ‘semiotic model’ of research was not unique to physiology, but transgressed the borders of natural sciences and the humanities. Until it was challenged by the rise of the ‘Galileian model’ of experimentation in the seventeenth century, the semiotic model represented an uncontested fundament for scientific research across many different areas of inquiry. The German tradition of ‘Ausdruckspsychologie’ is used as an example to further illustrate how the semiotic model was put into practice in German academic psychology. In conclusion, it is suggested that the heritage of semiotic model as a method of psychological research waits to be rediscovered by cultural psychologists.

Keywords

  • History of psychology
  • History of methodology
  • Semiotic analysis
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Ausdruckspsychologie
  • Carlo Ginzburg
  • Sigmund Freud

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Wieser, M. (2022). Reading Traces in Eels and Faces: Historical Roots of Semiotic Thinking in Psychology. In: Watzlawik, M., Salden, S. (eds) Courageous Methods in Cultural Psychology. Theory and History in the Human and Social Sciences. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-93535-1_2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-93535-1_2

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