Spooks and spoofs: Relations between psychical research and academic psychology in Britain in the inter-war period.

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This paper describes the relations between academic psychology and psychical research in Britain during the inter-war period, in the context of the fluid boundaries between mainstream psychology and both psychical research and popular psychology. Specifically, the involvement with Harry Price of six senior academic psychologists: William McDougall, William Brown, J.C. Flugel, Cyril Burt, C. Alec Mace and Francis Aveling, is described. Personal, metaphysical and socio-historical factors in their collaboration are discussed. It is suggested that the main reason for their mutual attraction was their common engagement in a delicate balancing act between courting popular appeal on the one hand and the assertion of scientific expertise and authority on the other. Their interaction is typical of the boundary work performed at this transitional stage in the development of psychology as a discipline.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67–90
Number of pages24
JournalHistory of the Human Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • psychical research, mainstream psychology, Harry Price, William McDougall, University of London

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