Thursday, May 29, 2008

Psycho-Gifts for Christmas!

While the Victorians loved their Freud, the '20s were all about behaviourism and personality tests...everybody was taking quizzes and using behaviour modification to keep their children in line. Skinner hadn't arrived on the scene yet but Watson was very, very popular.

This is the first time I've seen the fad so obviously presented in The New Yorker. It's a Christmas advertisement for Wanamaker's Department Store in the December 8, 1928 issue.

The advertisement claims that Wanamaker's has analyzed the neurotic complexes of "the world and his wife" (!), and that you should purchase Christmas gifts for people based on their own personal complexes.
To start this game we hand you a little book which lists suggestions for gifts under psychological classifications...

Start the game with your friends.

Play the game of choosing psycho-gifts. It is fascinating...

A treasure hunt, indeed, that will give you a greater Christmas thrill than you ever had before.
Forget the fact that behaviourism didn't believe in complexes per se, this could still be fun if they were using the good, old-fashioned, traditional Freudian complexes. Should you buy starchy underwear for the man with castration anxiety, or orthopedic shoes for sufferers of an Oedipus complex?

But no. As you'd expect, the "complexes" as illustrated are actually just a list of vague personality "types," making the astute observation that children only HAVE one type: "Children."

A treasure hunt that will give you a greater thrill? Nope, just another sad gimmick to get you to buy Christmas gifts. But I don't understand why the bellhop has an exposed catheter, let alone why the housewife is admiring cat poop on the brand new rug.


jj said...

As a non-psychologist(sic?) I personally found/find these personality type classification enormously useful. Look at the ad here, instead of giving meaningless and cliched flowers and chocolates, this "game" is actually encouraging you to "think" about what your loved ones would really like - books for the leisurely, vases for the asthethic, tools for the constructive etc. :) Far too many of us never think about what others really like. :)

Muffy St. Bernard said...

So now you know what to buy me for Christmas...a frying pan! :)

jj said...

Do be practical darling - we both know you never cook. :)

Muffy St. Bernard said...

No, but it would make a great photo op!