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Record Type: Review   ID: 176


Fernald, Dodge

As the author himself points out in his introduction, the "major instructional innovation" in this book, which otherwise is a "traditional twentieth-century psychology textbook," is the narrative approach used as a complement to the traditional rational and direct approach. He inserted approximately 30 "true stories, as far as one knows with one notable literary exception" (p. xviii). They were "obtained from the best scientific journals and most reliable mass media" (p. xviii). There even is a 1-page narrative index, so the stories can be located by chapter (no pages given). This is a significant innovation indeed, and it is the reason it is being reviewed here. Moreover, the book is dedicated "To the Storymakers." Perhaps even more remarkable, given these indications of the value Fernald places on stories, in the section on Research Methodology he remains, as he says, traditional, in that under the Case Study method he describes only Interviews and Tests and Case History. There is no mention of the burgeoning qualitative methods in which narrative figures so prominently, not even the phenomenological method. Nonetheless, I salute Dodge Fernald for breaking the psychology textbook mode to the extent that he does. I wonder what the next edition will include. Perhaps the 1-page introduction to humanistic psychology will be expanded and transpersonal psychology may gain entrance. It also should be mentioned that the stories are confined to the very first section of the first chapter, the Beginnings of Psychology. I also should add that one personal account is omitted from the Narrative Index: the experience that prompted him to include stories in his textbook, which to his credit he describes on p. xvii.

Finally, it is perhaps worth noting that Fernald, who is a Harvard psychologist, has written an article entitled "Of windmills and rope dancing: The instructional value of narrative structures." Teaching of Psychology, 1987, 14, 214-216.

I attempted to locate some of the stories indexed, beginning with chapter 1. The one indexed is on Clever Hans, about which Fernald has written a book. But the book fell open on a page, which introduces the functionalism of William James by telling his story, followed by the story of a well-known student of James, Mary Whitten Callkins. I doubt many psychology textbooks would provide so much personal detail, and I think the Narrative Index might have included more stories than it does. I checked only one story—indexed under Firewalking in the Narrative Index but not listed in the subject index, perhaps because of the extensive, innovative manner in which he presented it. The account concerns a psychologist and physicist who teamed up to investigate a firewalking self-help seminar such as have become common in recent years. The physicist preferred to walk the coals to prove that the laws of physics were not being suspended and the psychologist chose to study the behavior of the participants. (Their report appeared in the Skeptical Inquirer in 1985.) I assumed he would simply insert the anecdote in the text, but the story is continued throughout the chapter, interspersed with the considerable remaining text about "experiencing the world" sensorially, including sensory thresholds and their measurement. I found myself reading the entire chapter so as not to miss the snatches of the story as it was continued throughout, even in the questions at the end. This explains why entire chapters are cited for the stories, not simply pages. (There is a story for each of the 18 chapters.) This certainly is an innovative technique and I highly recommend the book because the linear, logical presentation of the text is also very clear and the summaries and questions at the end are clear and also provocative. You won’t find exceptional human experiences here under any name, but in its way, the book is an anomaly of experience in itself.

Publisher Information:Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1997. Pp. vii + 709. Bibl: 660-683; 74 figs; 24 graphs; Glos: 631-639; 67 illus; Name ind: 687-695; Narrative ind: 709; 49 photos; Subj. ind: 697-707; 66 tables
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