The Cummings Center Museum Experience – La Buchtelite


Just a few years ago, Drs. The Nicholas and Dorothy Cummings Center for the History of Psychology has opened a new section on the first floor. The museum is a hidden gem that presents all of its facets for students to witness and learn from.

With wood floors and warmly painted walls, the environment offers a calming effect similar to what a psychiatrist hopes to instill in his sessions, making it the perfect setting for learning.

Image of the Cummings Center (Image via Stephanie Fairchild)

This winding path of psychology’s footsteps and faux pas decorates every wall and corner of its sections with information and artifacts.

Just to the right of the main hall is the entrance to the museum. Once inside, guests are confronted with three animated graphical information with startling facts, like the creator of Wonder Woman being the inventor of the lie detector test. This brings guests to the first section of the museum, Psychology as a Profession. In this area, the walls are lined with the Psychology Timeline, displaying the development of the practice. Here one can find an old straight jacket and even take photos in a classic therapist couch with a photo of Sigmund Freud looming above you.

Just around the corner, after a brief session to watch some film clips, guests enter the psychological assessment section and discover the museum’s first interactive exhibit. Modeled after real tests used at immigration centers like Ellis Island designed to measure the use of intelligence without language, you can assess your intelligence based on these outdated methods.

Tucked away in the corner of the museum is the smaller section, Psychology Used in Industry. In this small pocket, the walls are lined with the stories of major contributors to the subject like Harry Hollingworth with his work on the effectiveness of firearms advertisements. The main attraction is an efficiency test modeled on that designed by Alfred Binet. There is also a small side display of a stereoscope and its inventor Charles Wheatstone.

Leaving the third section, guests return to the testing section and enter psychology as an agent of social change. The most eye-catching feature of this section is its use of video data. Two display screens hang on the walls, one showing interviews of children describing their favorite dolls as part of a study into the feelings of inferiority black children were forced to adopt because of racism societal in particular, in Brown v. Board. The other is that of several children beating an inflatable clown doll in a study of child psychology as performed by violent media. They even have a miniature version of the doll in question.

The penultimate section is a sight to see. Taking up most of the museum, psychology as a science exists in several rooms with subsections such as the Stanford Prison Experience and Animal Language Training. With the largest collection of subject-specific artifacts, you can gaze at the rusty relics of psychology’s achievements and sordid past.

Interactivity is perhaps the most important aspect of the final section. In What it means to be human, guests see their mental confidence tested before being asked to answer the question “what makes a human being” and hang their answers on lines of wire and leave with a few thoughts in mind.

Overall, the museum is a wonderful addition to what the campus has to offer. It creates a relaxing environment that encourages guests to go at their own pace and absorb all they can, not only coming away with information about the past, but also sowing the seeds of questions about the future.


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