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A field founded in 1997 by multi-disciplinarian Howard Bloom to "trace the evolution of complexity, sociality, perception, and mentation from the first 10(-32) second of the Big Bang to the present."

History[edit | edit source]

The term "paleopsychology" was first used by psychiatrist Smith Ely Jelliffe in the early 1900s. Writing in the New York Medical Journal (1916), Jelliffe and psychologist Elida Evans stated "We wish to maintain the idea that there be other types of fossils to be studied than those derived from plants and animals, namely, thought fossils, and that to paleobotany and to paleozoology, we may add a science of paleopsychology"[1] Jelliffe wrote extensively on the subject of paleopsychology in various journals and published his major thesis Paleopsychology: A tentative sketch of the origin and evolution of symbolic function in 1923 [2]. Commenting on the work of Jelliffe and paleopsychology as it relates to mental health, psychiatrist William A. White stated (1920) that "man could not be understood if we limited our conception of him to the period between the time of his birth and the time when he first came under our observation. The individual was connected to his past through the ages by the phylogenetic line of his ancestors and all of those connections must be expressed in him, because the psychologic level of his reactions expresses total reactions"[3].  

Contemporary theorists have revisited the paleopsychology concept. These include evolutionary psychologist Kent Bailey who published the book Human Paleopsychology: Applications to Aggression and Pathological Processes (NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum). Howard Bloom has also explored the topic of paleopsychology.

While researching his second book, Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind From the Big Bang to the 21st Century, Bloom noted that paleontologists often overlooked the social implications of their finds. For example, Bloom wrote in Global Brain that when "groups of the ancient bird Confuciusornis [were] found on the shore of a lake in northeast China's Liaoning Province" in the mid 1990s, the attention of paleontologists focused on the physiology of the specimens, not on the social implications of the fact that the birds were found in large groupings. Confuciusornis, Bloom noted, were discovered in what appeared to be flocks.

Bloom argued that sociality went back to the very beginnings of life. Bacteria--the early ancestors of all living things--tended to mass in groups of seven trillion or more 3.5 billion years ago. (See stromatolites.) The trilobites of 500 million years ago, Bloom pointed out, were also normally discovered in mass groupings.

Bloom contended that proto-sociality appeared in the very origins of the cosmos. The quarks that emerged in the first instant of the Big Bang, Bloom argued, instantly gathered in groups of three to form nucleons--protons and neutrons. The atoms that sprang into existence 300,000 years after the Big Bang, Bloom said, were social aggregations of protons, neutrons, and electrons. So, he noted, were the wisps of gas that gradually assembled in galaxies, then gave birth to stars.

The original Paleopsychologist Manifesto, "A Manifesto For A New Psychological Science", was issued by Bloom in May, 1997. It called for a field of study that would "trace the evolution of complexity, sociality, perception, and mentation from the first 10(-32) second of the Big Bang to the present." This manifesto led to the founding of The International Paleopsychology Project.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Jelliffe SE, Evans E: Psoriasis as an hysterical conversion symbolisation. New York Medical Journal 1916, 104:1077-84
  2. Jelliffe SE: Paleopsychology: A Tentive Sketch of the Origin and Evolution of Symbolic Function. Psychoanal. Rev 1923,10:121-139
  3. White WA: Discussion re: multiple sclerosis and Jelliffe. Arch Neurol Psychitr 1920, 4:594.

  • Confuciusornis sanctus, a new Late Jurassic sauriurine bird from China

L Hou, Z Zhou, Y Gu, H Zhang - Chinese Science Bulletin, 1995

  • Z Zhou, L Hou. Confuciusornis and the early evolution of birds. Vertebrata PalAsiatica, 1998.
  • Lianhai Hou, Larry D. Martin, Zhonghe Zhou, Alan Feduccia and Fucheng Zhang. "A diapsid skull in a new species of the primitive bird Confuciusornis." Nature, 17 June 1999: 679 682.
  • Howard Bloom. Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind From the Big Bang to the 21st Century. New York: John Wiley & Son, 2000.
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