Philosophy of Social Science Events

Upcoming Events | Past Events

Event: Workshop: Scientific Instruments in Psychology

Event date October 18, 2024
Submission deadline July 25, 2024
Location Netherlands
Host(s) Tilburg
Event website/information For more info, send an email to Claudia Cristalli (

Scientific Instruments in Psychology

A Philosophical, Historical, and Conservationist Perspective

Tilburg, Friday 18th of October, 2024


Organizing committee: Claudia Cristalli, Ties van Gemert

Important dates:

  • Deadline for submissions: the 25th of July
  • Notification of acceptance: 1st of August



This workshop seeks to bring together historians, philosophers, psychologists and museum curators interested in the question of the role of instruments in nineteenth-century experimental psychology as well as in contemporary cognitive science. The aim of this event is twofold: (1) to foster interdisciplinary research on psychology’s objects, its techniques, and its history; and (2) to contribute to our current understanding of the value of history for both philosophy of science and scientific practice.

Contemporary science (and particularly psychology) has been witnessing a “replication crisis,” which stimulated methodological remedies (Shrout and Rodgers 2018) and philosophical reflection (Wiggins and Christopherson 2019). Historians and philosophers of science working with historical experiments have generally refrained from calling such activity “replication” (Fors, Principe, and Sibum 2016, 93). Yet they admit that the trial-and-error process through which their research unfolds shows “little difference [from] doing experimental science itself” (Id., 95). Moreover, while discussions around replication unfold on the backdrop of a progressive picture of psychology, historians and philosophers of science have acknowledged the potential of recovering “dead-ends” – i.e., “failed” theories or explanations – afforded by the interaction with past experiments. Such activities of reconstruction may be a way to “continue science by other means” (Chang 1999) and to put aside the cumulative picture of scientific knowledge.

By focusing on instruments’ design, adaptation, and on the practices surrounding their usage, this workshop will connect the material, embodied, contextual and institutional aspects that define experimental psychology and investigate knowledge framing and knowledge production as practices. “Instruments” will be taken in a broad sense, to include “brass and glass” artifacts (Tweney 2003; Cristalli and Jackson 2023) as well as drawings (Gestalt or bistable images, Rorschach inkblots, etc.), surveys, questionnaires, narratives, and quantitative approaches.

We invite contributions on the relationship between history, philosophy, and instruments in psychology. Contributions may include:

  • Surveys of existing collections, their display logic and the ways in which the preservation of such instruments can inform the narrative of e.g. science museums or influence teaching;
  • Hands-on sessions with actual or reconstructed instruments;
  • Accounts of experiment/instrument reworking or reconstruction in the history of psychology, their challenges and the insights gained thereby;
  • Reflections on contemporary uses of instruments for particular research in experimental psychology, their affordances, challenges, and their implications for our understanding of the phenomena at stake;
  • Reflections on the contributions that an instrument-mediated history of psychology can give to (a) contemporary psychology or to (b) history and philosophy of science.


Please submit a brief description or abstract of your planned contribution (250 words) by emailing the organizers Claudia Cristalli ( and Ties van Gemert ( by Thursday, the 25th of July. Notifications of acceptance will be sent by the 1st of August.

 Invited Speakers

Alexander Klein, McMaster University, tbc.

Isabelle Tissot, Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, “The do’s and don’ts of hands-on history and philosophy of science from a conservationist perspective.”


List of Works Cited

Chang, H. (1999). History and philosophy of science as a continuation of science by other means. Science & Education, 8, 413–425.

Cristalli, C., & Jackson, R. L. (2023). From Postal Scale to Psychological Apparatus: A History of Experimental Psychology Through the Reconstruction of Peirce and Jastrow’s “On Small Differences of Sensation” (1885). Nuncius, 38(3), 553-582.

Fors, H., Principe, L. M., and Sibum, H. O. (2016). From the Library to the Laboratory and Back Again: Experiment as a Tool for Historians of Science. Ambix, 63(2), 85-97.

Shrout, P. E., and Rodgers, J. L. (2018). Psychology, Science, and Knowledge Construction: Broadening Perspectives from the Replication Crisis. Annual Review of Psychology, 69(1), 487-510.

Tweney R. D. (2003). Whatever Happened to the Brass and Glass? The Rise of Statistical “Instruments” in Psychology, 1900–1950. In Baker, David ed., Thick Description and Fine Texture: Studies in the History of Psychology. Akron: The University of Akron Press.

Wiggins, B. J., & Christopherson, C. D. (2019). The replication crisis in psychology: An overview for theoretical and philosophical psychology. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, 39(4), 202–217.

Bookmark the permalink.