research notes: Leo Kanner

Human beings cannot be purely objective; we all bring cognitive and emotional biases to the data we encounter. The point of the scientific method is to compensate for those biases as much as possible. But even the way we use the scientific method can be skewed by our worldview. For obvious reasons it’s difficult to make allowances for the biases of people living in our own time and our culture – we will be subject to similar biases ourselves. But I’ve found it useful to look into the background of researchers from other times and other cultures – it’s easy to assume they saw the world in the way we do, when that’s very unlikely.

So my first post is about Leo Kanner’s social and economic background. In the second, I plan to explore the theoretical framework he would have been using. It could be that what was happening in Kanner’s homeland might have nothing to do with his autism hypothesis, but it does shed some light on what he might have experienced before becoming a pioneering psychiatrist.

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