"Tangible as tissue": Arnold gesell, infant behavior, and film analysis

Scott Curtis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Argument From 1924 to 1948, developmental psychologist Arnold Gesell regularly used photographic and motion picture technologies to collect data on infant behavior. The film camera, he said, records behavior "in such coherent, authentic and measurable detail that... the reaction patterns of infant and child become almost as tangible as tissue." This essay places his faith in the fidelity and tangibility of film, as well as his use of film as evidence, in the context of developmental psychology's professed need for legitimately scientific observational techniques. It also examines his use of these same films as educational material to promote his brand of scientific child rearing. But his analytic techniques - his methods of extracting data from the film frames - are the key to understanding the complex relationship between his theories of development and his chosen research technology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)417-442
Number of pages26
JournalScience in Context
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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