Faculty & School/Dept.
Faculty of Health - Department of Psychology
PhD - 2006
University Of Toronto
BA - 2001
Michael Pettit is a historian of science whose teaching and research centre on the emergence of psychology as a science, discipline, and profession. His scholarly interests encompass the history of both scientific practices and the circulation of scientific knowledge in the public sphere. His work is informed by contemporary developments in Science and Technology Studies and cultural history.
The Science of Deception: Psychology and Commerce in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013).
with Matthew J. Sigal, “Information Overload, Professionalization, and the Origins of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association,” Review of General Psychology, forthcoming.
“The Queer Life of a Lab Rat,” History of Psychology 15(3) (2012).
“The Con Man as Model Organism: The Methodological Roots of Erving Goffman’s Dramaturgical Theory,” History of the Human Sciences 24(2) (2011): 138-154.
“The SPSSI Task Force on Sexual Orientation, the Nature of Sex, and the Contours of Activist Science,”Journal of Social Issues 67(1) (2011): 90-103.
“The Problem of Raccoon Intelligence in Behaviourist America,” British Journal for the History of Science 43 (3) (2010): 391-421.
“The New Woman as ‘Tied-up Dog’: Amy E. Tanner’s Situated Knowledges,” History of Psychology 11(3) (2008): 145-163.
“‘The Joy in Believing’: The Cardiff Giant, Commercial Deceptions, and Styles of Observation in Gilded Age America,” Isis 97(4): 659-677.
Article Prize - Forum for the History of Science in America - 2011
Early Career Achievement Award - APA Div 26 - 2009
Early Career Award - FHHS - 2006
Currently available to supervise graduate students: Yes
Currently taking on work-study students, Graduate Assistants or Volunteers: No
Available to supervise undergraduate thesis projects: No
Michael Pettit recently completed a book-length cultural history of deception at the intersection of American science, law, and commercial culture from the 1860s to the 1930s. This multi-sited project examines how lying, fraud, and self-deception came under scientific investigation in relationship to the emergence of new ideals of objectivity and the corporation as a new model for social organization.
He has also published on the historical intersection between comparative psychology and sexology. This project is particularly concerned with the use of hormones to both explain and modify behavior. As part of this project, he has begun to explore the possibilities of using social network analysis and GIS to faciliate historical research.
Sex Lives of Animals in the Age of Kinsey
This project examines the interplay among clinical professionals, sex reformers, sexologists, and laboratory experimenters that looked to nonhuman animals to speak the true nature of sexual behavior. The aim is to situate the science of behavioral endocrinology within the history of sexuality in the twentieth century. What can the field’s narratives about the sex lives of animals tell us about science and sexuality during the Cold War and the different ways that the people look to the behavior of animals to explain human nature? What do scientists do with standardized materials that do not behave in an expected, standardized fashion? What was the field’s relationship to Alfred Kinsey’s statistical sex surveys and the development of sex reassignment surgery? How did facts produced in the animal psychologist’s laboratory circulation in the wider culture and how did historical circumstances shape laboratory practice?
Role: Principal Investigator
Year Funded: 2009
Funded by: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council