The Open Mind Cold War Politics and the Sciences of Human Nature
by Jamie Cohen-Cole
University of Chicago Press, 2013
Cloth: 978-0-226-09216-4 | Paper: 978-0-226-36190-1 | Electronic: 978-0-226-09233-1
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226092331.001.0001
ABOUT THIS BOOKAUTHOR BIOGRAPHYREVIEWSTABLE OF CONTENTS

ABOUT THIS BOOK

The Open Mind chronicles the development and promulgation of a scientific vision of the rational, creative, and autonomous self, demonstrating how this self became a defining feature of Cold War culture. Jamie Cohen-Cole illustrates how from 1945 to 1965 policy makers and social critics used the idea of an open-minded human nature to advance centrist politics. They reshaped intellectual culture and instigated nationwide educational reform that promoted more open, and indeed more human, minds. The new field of cognitive science was central to this project, as it used popular support for open-mindedness to overthrow the then-dominant behaviorist view that the mind either could not be studied scientifically or did not exist. Cognitive science also underwrote the political implications of the open mind by treating it as the essential feature of human nature.     
           
While the open mind unified America in the first two decades after World War II, between 1965 and 1975 battles over the open mind fractured American culture as the ties between political centrism and the scientific account of human nature began to unravel. During the late 1960s, feminists and the New Left repurposed Cold War era psychological tools to redefine open-mindedness as a characteristic of left-wing politics. As a result, once-liberal intellectuals became neoconservative, and in the early 1970s, struggles against open-mindedness gave energy and purpose to the right wing.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

Jamie Cohen-Cole is assistant professor in the Department of American Studies at George Washington University. He lives in Arlington, Virginia.

REVIEWS

“In this fascinating book, Jamie Cohen-Cole illustrates the surprisingly strong relations among conceptions of the human mind, models of the academy, and images of the ideal American citizen, as well as the ultimate fragility of these relations in the face of disruptive political forces.”
— Howard Gardner, author of The Mind’s New Science

“Charting the political and psychological resonance of ‘the open mind’ in the postwar United States, Jamie Cohen-Cole himself opens up wholly new ways of conceiving the relationship of the human sciences to public culture. His compelling account of the ways intellectuals brought the democratic citizen, the scholarly self, and the normative human into alignment in this era fundamentally alters what we know about the ‘liberal consensus’: both how it was knit together and how it unraveled. Deeply original and provocative, The Open Mind reveals how thinking about thinking changed, and why it mattered—for the academy, for science, and for American political culture.”
— Sarah E. Igo, author of The Averaged American

“Who could be against an open mind? In this lucid and humane book, Jamie Cohen-Cole shows how psychologists tried to model Americans on themselves—as autonomous, creative, experimental scientists. Ultimately, however, their subjects kicked back. A salutary reminder of the limits to the authority of science in postwar America.”
— Peter Mandler, University of Cambridge

The Open Mind is an elegant and important book that makes a major contribution to rethinking the Cold War and its many legacies. Jamie Cohen-Cole has written a prismatic history, one that reflects the academic disciplines, the institutions of higher education and their funders, and the social and intellectual networks of its principle figures as they shaped Cold War politics and education policy. And it even has a chapter on ‘Man: A Course of Study’ (MACOS), a subject I have puzzled over since the fifth grade. Meticulously researched and argued, the narrative is compelling, surprising, and refreshingly free of conventional wisdom about the period. As we come to question the self-evident value of open-mindedness in the process of seeing it historicized, Cohen-Cole allows us to see our own values and habits of thought in a new way.”
— Deborah Nelson, University of Chicago

“Cohen-Cole’s book not only offers a fascinating glimpse into the development of mid-century psychology and cognitive science but also shows the deep connections among what was happening in what might otherwise be considered separate social and political spaces that include laboratories, classrooms, cocktail parties, conferences, academic departments, and various physical and textual loci of political and social engagement. It is exceptionally clear in its narrative structure, prose style, and argument, and it offers a fresh perspective on how we understand the co-creation of science and society in Cold War America.”
— Carla Nappi, New Books in Science, Technology, and Society

“Cohen-Cole’s fascinating new book The Open Mind tells the story of liberal tolerance since World War II, examining how an ideal of open-mindedness was deliberately cultivated in psychology, pedagogy, and social science. Exposing all the contradictions of liberalism, Cohen-Cole has written a highly illuminating prehistory of the muddles and riddles of contemporary political rhetoric.”
— Cathy Gere, Nation

“Anyone who wants to know about American democracy in the postwar era, and the special place of psychology within it, will profit enormously from reading Cohen-Cole’s excellent study.”
— Science

"As intellectual history, Cohen-Cole's broadly researched, closely argued study does not provide easy reading. But the attention it demands is worthwhile for its important, fresh outlook on significant developments during the Cold War era. Highly recommended."
— CHOICE

"...left a long-lasting impression on me...an important contribution to the history of the social sciences during the Cold War."
— Serendipities

"Against the background of the debates between behaviorists and cognitive psychologists, Cohen-Cole offers a lively analysis of the way whereby the latter made the virtues encountered in salons and other venues for conversation—open-mindedness, flexibility, realisticness, interdisciplinarity, and creativity—the characteristics of normal human nature."
— Journal of the History of Economic Thought

TABLE OF CONTENTS

- Jamie Cohen-Cole
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226092331.003.0001
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Jamie Cohen-Cole
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226092331.003.0002
[Liberal education, General education, Pedagogy, History, Citizenship, expert]
This chapter examines the debate over pedagogy that roiled education and policymaking circles in the 1930s and first half of the 1940s. Discussions were imbued with politics and with midcentury anxiety about the fracturing of the modern world. Questions of pedagogy frequently became philosophical discussions about the meaning of proper citizenship, the definition of a good society, and the true meaning of democracy. In the end, neither liberal education nor general education succeeded in achieving dominance. Solution came in the form of a synthesis developed at Harvard in 1943-1945. The work of a committee of professors and outside consultants was to provide a vision of the right kind of mind for America that came to have lasting influence. That vision emphasized the cultivation of expert mental skills over factual knowledge as the basis of citizenship. (pages 13 - 34)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Jamie Cohen-Cole
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226092331.003.0003
[conformity, Creativity, Flexibility, Mass society, Authoritarian, Personality, Self, liberal, conservative]
This chapter examines how Cold War social critics and policy makers used scientific study of individual character to solve social and political problems from bureaucracy, social fragmentation, and soulless consumerism to alienation and the evaporation of true community. Their science provided tools for understanding the kind of person who threatened to make America into a mass or even an authoritarian society. Scientific tools crystallized a form of the exemplary self that would inoculate America against the dangers of mass society. The defining feature of that personality was creativity, a trait taken to be interchangeable with autonomy, rationality, tolerance, and open-mindedness. Liberal social scientists managed the definitions of creativity and autonomy in such a way that those traits would describe their allies. Conversely, the opposite traits—conformity, rigidity, narrow-mindedness—were defined so as to apply to the liberals’ McCarthyite opponents on the right and their Communist foes on the left. (pages 35 - 62)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Jamie Cohen-Cole
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226092331.003.0004
[Interdisciplinary, Social science, Politics, Academic culture, Pluralism, creativity]
This chapter examines how it came to be that interdisciplinarity seemed an unqualified good in postwar American academic culture. Interdisciplinarity meant not only creativity, but also democracy, scientific rigor, and practicality. By the 1950s, the best way for social science to be seen as truly scientific, was to be interdisciplinary. A broad range of social scientists and their patrons, whether in private philanthropies or government, concluded that the best way to improve the social sciences would be to use interdisciplinary approaches to generate new and powerful research tools. This methodological focus on tools avoided both a pure form of empiricist data gathering and theorizing disconnected from reality. Indeed advocates of interdisciplinarity contended that attachment to empiricism was itself a religious, unscientific dogma that prevented collaboration between people in different fields. Even more, because of the way in which social scientists saw America–as a pluralist society–they often identified interdisciplinary research as a pluralist endeavor which was optimally suited to the study of democratic societies. (pages 65 - 103)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Jamie Cohen-Cole
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226092331.003.0005
[small group, conference, community, academic culture]
By looking at the relationship between daily personal experience and social thought, this chapter examines how the social structure academics sought for reforming academic culture reflected the political and social visions they held for America. Political sentiments provided a language for discussing and regulating the functions of intellectual social life. In their own community, intellectuals developed standards of comportment, self-presentation, intelligence, creativity, and right-mindedness which they used to police their social lives. They enacted and articulated these standards in their writing and in face-to-face in modern-day interdisciplinary “salons.” The visceral experiences that intellectuals had day-to-day in dinner clubs, discussion groups, as well as interdisciplinary study groups and conferences functioned as models when they developed accounts of American society. Their social vision of the nation was grounded in the kinds of interpersonal interaction that they practiced and valued in their own professional lives. (pages 104 - 138)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Jamie Cohen-Cole
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226092331.003.0006
[cognitive science, reflexivity, behaviorism, human nature, scientific thinking]
This chapter focuses on a particular moment in the history of human sciences in which reflexivity played a significant role: the early days of revolution when cognitive science supplanted behaviorism as the hegemonic science of human nature. In the struggle that marked the cognitive revolution. Reflexivity provided the combatants with weapons to attack their foes and also methods and concepts to form their respective sciences of human nature. To enhance their public standing, cognitive scientists sought to make their own thought processes match folk ideas of scientific thinking. They applied the same categories of selfhood found in popular culture and social psychology to themselves. They collapsed distinction between normative rules for scientific thinking and the actual processes of human thinking. As cognitive scientists crossed back and forth between scientific descriptions of the human and normative discussions of the best way for scientists to think, they borrowed from the folk and social psychological image of right-thinking to inform their own personal and public images. These very same scientific self-images would form the basis for the image of human nature that cognitive science produced. (pages 141 - 164)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Jamie Cohen-Cole
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226092331.003.0007
[Interdisciplinary, Multidisciplinary, Research culture, Cognitive science, Center for Cognitive Studies, Harvard]
This chapter examines development of and changes in the research culture at Harvard's Center for Cognitive Studies. The directors applied their psychological expertise in how humans think and learn to design a research environment that would maximize the chances for acquiring reliable knowledge about world—specifically, about the nature of human thinking. They saw learning as, fundamentally, the acquisition of new structures of thought and of new tools with which to think. Therefore what was important was not simply facts that people learned or scientists discovered. Rather more significant were the procedures, forms of mental representation, and heuristic methods that enabled individuals to have original forms of ideas, novel hypotheses, and techniques for investigating the world. Accordingly the Center was organized along interdisciplinary lines in order to facilitate the construction of new theories and new scientific tools while establishing the disciplined study of human cognition on a stable foundation. Several years later, once its work was well under way, the Center's culture became multidisciplinary. Rather than emphasizing the creation of cognitive science by sharing, invention, location, discussion and stabilization of new research techniques, the Center's new multidisciplinary atmosphere involved researchers working in parallel. (pages 165 - 189)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Jamie Cohen-Cole
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226092331.003.0008
[Man: A Course of Study, MACOS, Citizen, Discovery, Learning, Curriculum, Cognitive science]
This chapter examines the transmission of cognitive psychology outside the halls of the academy to the wider public through National Science Foundation sponsored science high school curricula. Curriculum designers believed that treating learning as discovery oriented process rather a matter of memorization would inoculate Americans against the wrong-headed, reactionary politics, and dishonesty of McCarthyism. The chapter focuses on the design of a social science course, “Man: A Course of Study” (MACOS), led by cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner. Along with the other science curriculum projects, MACOS sought to transform minds of its students and therefore the nation. Social and natural science when taught in the proper way would enable pupils to become responsible citizens. MACOS treated the classroom as a place to do social science and elementary school children as though they were little scientists. Instead of emphasizing on memorization of facts and truths derived from authority, MACOS taught its students mental self-reliance. In so doing MACOS aimed to foster the liberal traits of tolerance, encourage reason, and promote an attitude of self-confidence and the questioning of received authority. It was these open-minded attributes and not the ability to memorize that cognitive science had marked as distinctively human. (pages 190 - 214)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Jamie Cohen-Cole
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226092331.003.0009
[Open-mindedness, New Right, Political culture, Conservative, New Left, Liberal, Human nature]
In the decade between 1965 and 1975 open-mindedness moved from serving as an element of cultural cohesion to one that divided Americans one from another. This chapter examines how the cultural web sustained by open-mindedness unraveled at two ends of the political spectrum. The first half of this chapter focuses on the late 1960s and examines how the political culture of Cold War period came apart when the New Left enthusiastically adopted the open mind and pried it away from centrist political positions and from the social scientists, intellectuals, and policy makers who espoused them. The second half of this chapter turns to the politics of the open-mind in the early 1970s when the New Right attacked the vision of open-minded reason that had linked the academy, centrist culture, and human nature as a organizational and movement building strategy. The chapter focuses on the reaction to place where the culture of open-mindedness was at its most concentrated: MAN: A Course of Study (MACOS). Conservatives contended that the cognitive vision of humans as, by nature, open-minded embedded an anti-American, liberal, and secular humanist agenda. They used opposition to the cognitive vision of human nature as a strategy for building their political movement. (pages 217 - 252)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Jamie Cohen-Cole
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226092331.003.0010
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online