Forthcoming: Gordon Tullock Meets Phineas Gage: The Political Economy of Lobotomies in the United States

A few weeks ago, Raymond March and myself received news that Research Policy accepted our article regarding why the practice of lobotomy boomed in the 1940s and 1950s. More precisely, we explain how the practice grew in popularity and persisted well after the academic community has raised serious doubt on the practice. I will upload the link to the published paper once it is only on the journal’s website (the working paper version is here). The abstract is below:

In the late 1940s, the United States experienced a “lobotomy boom” where the use of the lobotomy expanded exponentially. We engage in a comparative institutional analysis, following the framework developed by Tullock (2005), to explain why the lobotomy gained popularity and widespread use despite widespread scientific consensus it was ineffective. We argue that government provision and funding for public mental hospitals and asylums expanded and prolonged the use of the lobotomy. We support this claim by noting the lobotomy had virtually disappeared from private mental hospitals and asylums before the boom and was less used beforehand. This paper provides a more robust explanation for the lobotomy boom in the US and expands on the literate examining the relationship between state funding and scientific inquiry.

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