Friday, May 14, 2010

Phineas Gage

Phineas Gage and the tamping rod that went through his brain.

Curse you Wikipedia, by making it easy to check up on facts and stories you are spoiling it for everyone.

As we saw in class the story of Phineas Gage is quite well known and often repeated in psychology and anatomy classes. But like all good stories, is it too good to be true?

Psychologist Malcolm Macmillan, in his book An Odd Kind of Fame: Stories of Phineas Gage, surveys scores of accounts of the case (both scientific and popular), finding that they are varying and inconsistent, typically poorly supported by the evidence, and often in direct contradiction to it. Accounts commonly ascribe to Gage drunkenness, braggadocio, "a vainglorious tendency to show off his wound," an "utter lack of foresight," inability or refusal to hold a job —even "sexually molesting small children," according to curricular materials at one medical school— none of these mentioned by Harlow nor by anyone else claiming actual knowledge of Gage's life.

A daguerreotype portrait of Gage—"handsome...well dressed and confident, even proud," and holding the tamping iron which injured him—was identified in 2009. One researcher points to it as consistent with a social recovery hypothesis, under which Gage's most serious mental changes may have existed for only a limited time after the accident, so that in later life he was far more functional, and socially far better adapted, than has been thought.

1 comment:

Lauren Moissiy said...

Well that puts a bit of a tamping rod in the story..