Why do we act the way we do? What determines the patterns of our behavior and personality? These are questions to which every generation seeks answers. Today, psychology and, increasingly, genetics are being explored to understand and explain the vicissitudes of human nature, but these are only just the latest in a long string of explanations. During the 19th century, phrenology—the study of human cranial structures and their application to personality, character, and behavior—provided another, and a popular, explanation.
At its peak, phrenology excited intense interest among both scientists and the public in Boston and throughout the world. Although its heyday has long passed, the movement endured into the 20th century, and some of its vestiges can still be found today. Talking Heads explores the basis for phrenological study, some of the major figures associated with it, and Boston's own unique place in the history of this peculiar and popular movement.
Talking Heads is an exhibit curated by Jack Eckert for the Center for the History of Medicine. The online exhibit was created in OnView by Andra Langoussis in May 2013.