Instruments have become a central feature of psychological science. Their introduction into a research paradigm is typically framed in terms of their practical utility in offering calibration and precision in the presentation, representation, and recording of phenomena. However, a review of early experimental psychology reveals that instruments have an additional role in terms of the accumulation of domain-specific status, or prestige. The emergence and use of prestige technologies reflects a general feature of social organization wherein group members must compete for the attention of a community. An examination of the introduction of the chronoscope demonstrates that while there was an awareness of its functional limitations, these limits were often not prominent features of later paradigmatic discourse. In contrast to early adopters, later researchers appear to have demonstrated a reduced concern for these limitations suggesting that these instruments were being used as much for their prestige function as their practical utility.

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Keywords chronoscope, history, prestige technology, Wilhelm Wundt
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Journal Theory and Psychology
Schoenherr, J.R. (2017). Prestige technology in the evolution and social organization of early psychological science. Theory and Psychology, 27(1), 6–33. doi:10.1177/0959354316677076