A History of Psychology in Letters

A History of Psychology in Letters, Second Edition

Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr.

Blackwell Publishing



A History of Psychology in Letters





OFPsychology IN





© 2006 by Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr.

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First edition published 1993 by Wm. C. Brown Communications, Inc. Second edition published 2006 by Blackwell Publishing Ltd

1 2006

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Benjamin, Ludy T., 1945– A history of psychology in letters / Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. — 2nd ed.

p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN-13: 978-1-4051-2611-3 (hard cover : alk. paper) ISBN-10: 1-4051-2611-6 (hard cover : alk. paper) ISBN-13: 978-1-4051-2612-0 (pbk. : alk. paper)

ISBN-10: 1-4051-2612-4 (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Psychology — History. 2. Psychologists — Correspondence. I. Title.

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Preface vii

Credits xiii

1 Reading Other People’s Mail: The Joys of Historical Research 1

2 John Locke as Child Psychologist 15

3 On the Origin of Species: Darwin’s Crisis of 1858 27

4 John Stuart Mill and the Subjection of Women 41

5 An American in Leipzig 55

6 The Struggle for Psychology Laboratories 69

7 William James and Psychical Research 81

8 Hugo Münsterberg and the Psychology of Law 95

9 A Woman’s Struggles for Graduate Education 113

10 Titchener’s Experimentalists: No Women Allowed 125

11 Coming to America: Freud and Jung 139

12 The Behaviorism of John B. Watson 153

13 Nazi Germany and the Migration of Gestalt Psychology 169

14 A Social Agenda for American Psychology 183

15 B. F. Skinner’s Heir Conditioner 197

16 Kenneth B. Clark and the Brown v. Board Decision 213

References 231

Index 241






This is a book of journeys, a book that will allow you to travel in time and place, peering into the lives, indeed the very souls, of individuals who were important for the development of psychology. You will read their letters, letters that express the gamut of human emotions – happiness, fear, love, anxiety, sadness – letters filled with hope and others with expectations of doom, and letters expressing new ideas and invoking intellectual debates that shaped psychology.

Your travels in this book will take you to Holland in the 1600s to read the letters philosopher John Locke was writing to his cousin, offering his advice on the raising of children. You will be in England in the nineteenth century, reading the letters of philosopher John Stuart Mill on the subjection of women and of natu- ralist Charles Darwin on the nature of species change. You will join an American graduate student in Leipzig, Germany in the 1880s where he was working in the first psychology laboratory and writing home to his mother and father about his experiences. You will read the letters of philosopher and psychologist William James and thus become involved in séances in the home of a famous Boston medium in the 1880s as she tries to make contact with the spirits of the dead. In nearby Cambridge, Massachusetts you will learn of Mary Whiton Calkins’s strug- gles as a woman to gain access to psychology courses and a doctoral degree at Harvard University. You will be in Vienna and Zurich in 1909 as Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung write to one another about their upcoming trip to the United States, a new and much anticipated experience for both. You will experience some of the horrors of Nazi Germany in the 1930s as Adolf Hitler comes to power. And you will be in New York City on May 17, 1954 for the jubilation experienced by African-American Kenneth Clark when he learns of the Supreme Court’s decision to declare school segregation unconstitutional, a decision based, in part, on his psychological research.

The stories in this book are often stories of great drama as revealed through the medium of correspondence. Letters are personal documents, private missives, often intended only for the eyes of the letter’s recipient. The most powerful human dramas are perhaps best revealed in the often private thoughts expressed in




letters. Historians understand that, and they understand the obligations they have as scholars to treat such personal documents with respect.

The letters reprinted in this book exist because someone had the foresight to preserve them. Typically they are part of some archival collection, made available to scholars for their research. Indeed, they are the raw data of historians. They are what historians use to make sense of the printed record. In the language of a cog- nitive psychologist, letters can provide the deep structure that makes sense of the surface structure, that is, that gives real meaning to what we know. Such is the richness of letters.

The idea for this book grew out of my undergraduate and graduate courses on the history of psychology, courses I have been teaching for more than 35 years. Almost from the beginning of my teaching, I have used letters of individuals, famous in the history of psychology, to supplement my lectures: letters from Sigmund Freud describing the evolution of his ideas on psychoanalysis, letters from Harry Kirke Wolfe describing his frustrations with establishing his psychol- ogy laboratory at the end of the nineteenth century, and letters from Christine Ladd-Franklin as she sought to gain access to an all-male psychology club where she might present some of her research on experimental psychology.

As it became apparent that students liked this kind of material, I added more of it to my courses. I even began using it in my introductory psychology course as a supplement to lectures on conditioning, personality theory, the psychology of gender, and social psychology. Students greatly enjoy these letters and have consistently rated them among the most favorable aspects of my courses. Conse- quently, this book is intended to make this kind of material readily available to students and instructors. As students, you should find the content of this book easy to read, inherently very interesting, and helpful in your understanding of the development of the discipline of psychology. In the process you will learn some world history and some American history, as these letters are imbedded in the broader historical context of which they are a part.

This book is not a comprehensive history of psychology. It could be used as a stand-alone text in a history of psychology course but would be more valuable reinforced with other reading, such as a history of psychology textbook or origi- nal source reading by the individuals treated in this book. This book is also very appropriate for senior capstone courses, honors introductory psychology courses, or graduate pro-seminar courses where the objective is to expose students broadly to multiple areas of psychology. Moreover, this book is appropriate as a supple- ment to a textbook in introductory psychology courses. See Tables 1 and 2 for a suggested matching of the chapters of this book with those commonly found in texts in the history of psychology and in introductory psychology.

As in the first edition, individuals were selected for this book in order to cover a broad spectrum of psychology both with regard to time period and subfield of psychology. Inclusion does not imply that these persons were the most significant figures in psychology. Although that criterion is followed where possible, some

viii Preface



significant figures were excluded because no letters exist for them, or because it was not possible to secure permission for publication of their letters. Others were excluded because the content too closely paralleled other letters in the collection.

Where possible, only letters have been used. However, in several cases a few journal or notebook entries have been used to supplement the letters. The letters and journal entries in seven of these chapters are now in print, although in four chapters they represent letters that were scattered across several published sources and have been integrated here for our purposes. The inclusion of these letters in this book reflects the permission of literary heirs and publishers as noted in the acknowledgments. For eight chapters, the letters are previously unpublished (except in four cases in the earlier edition of this book). These have been taken from several archival collections, and are reprinted here with permission.

Five of the chapters are new for this edition. One of those – the opening chapter – is a treatment of some of the issues of historiography, that is, the theories and methods of doing history. It is meant to give you a richer understanding of how historians do their work. There are new chapters on the work of Hugo

Preface ix

Table 1 Using This Book for a History of Psychology Course

History of Psychology Corresponding Chapter Textbook Chapter in This Book

Historiography 1 Reading Other People’s Mail Empiricism 2 John Locke

4 John Stuart Mill Evolution/Functionalist Antecedents 3 Charles Darwin Wundtian Psychology 5 James McKeen Cattell Beginnings of American Psychology 6 Harry Kirke Wolfe

9 Mary Whiton Calkins Structuralism 10 Edward B. Titchener Functionalism 5 James McKeen Cattell

7 William James 8 Hugo Münsterberg

Behaviorism 12 John B. Watson Psychoanalysis 11 Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung Gestalt Psychology 13 Koffka, Köhler, and Lewin Neobehaviorism 15 B. F. Skinner Applied Psychology 8 Hugo Münsterberg

14 Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues

Psychology in the Post-Schools Era 14 Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues

16 Kenneth B. Clark



Münsterberg in applying psychology to the profession of law (forensic psychology) and Kenneth B. Clark on the use of psychological research to battle prejudice and discrimination. Although there were chapters on John B. Watson and B. F. Skinner in the first edition, those chapters are virtually new in this edition. The Skinner chapter contains all new letters, and the Watson chapter uses only a few letters from the first edition. All of the other chapters have been rewritten, some of them extensively so, because of the availability of additional letters, because of the exis- tence of new scholarship since the first edition was published, and because of feed- back users of the first edition have given me.

Each chapter typically features the letters of a single individual, although there are several exceptions. The letters for each chapter were selected according to a particular theme, for example, William James’s involvement in psychical research, Charles Darwin’s delay in publishing his Origin of Species, James McKeen Cattell’s

x Preface

Table 2 Using This Book for an Introductory Psychology Course

Introductory Psychology Corresponding Chapter Textbook Chapter in This Book

Introduction (history, 5 Cattell in Leipzig approaches, methods) 6 Struggles for Laboratories

10 Titchener’s Experimentalists 12 Behaviorism 11 Psychoanalysis 13 Gestalt Psychology

Biological Psychology 3 Darwin and Evolution Sensation and Perception 7 James and Psychical Research Learning 12 Watson’s Behaviorism

15 Skinner’s Aircrib Cognition 5 Cattell in Leipzig

7 James and Psychical Research 13 Gestalt Psychology

Development 2 Locke as Child Psychologist 12 Watson’s Behaviorism 15 Skinner’s Aircrib

Gender (Sex Roles, Sex Differences) 4 Mill and the Subjection of Women 9 Calkins’ Quest for Graduate Education

10 Titchener’s Experimentalists Personality 11 Psychoanalysis Abnormal Psychology and Treatment 11 Psychoanalysis Social Psychology 13 Founding of SPSSI

16 Clark and Brown v. Board Forensic Psychology 8 Hugo Münsterberg

16 Clark and Brown v. Board



work as a graduate student in the earliest psychology laboratory in the 1880s, and B. F. Skinner’s use of his science to create a better crib for his infant daughter.

Each chapter begins with a brief essay intended to set the stage for the letters. Then the letters are presented in sequence, usually chronologically, with brief footnotes where needed. The footnotes are important to understanding the meaning of the letters and should be read as part of the text. The letters are followed by an epi- logue, new to this edition, that typically completes the story. Finally, each chapter ends with an annotated list of suggested readings that adds explanation to the chapter’s content and serves as a guide to sources of further information for inter- ested readers.

When a book finally emerges from the typed pages of the author, bound in its shiny cover, it exists because of the efforts of many people. I express my gratitude for the very helpful assistance of the staff at Blackwell Publishing, whose talents turned my manuscript into an actual book: Sarah Coleman, Joanna Pyke, Rhonda Pearce, Desirée Zicko, and Ellie Keating. I am especially grateful to my editor, Chris Cardone, whose confidence in me and my ideas for this book have made for a productive and very pleasant working relationship. I also thank Michael Sokal, David Baker, Julie Vargas, and Darryl Bruce who made suggestions to improve several of the chapters in this book. Robin Cautin, Donald Dewsbury, Raymond Fancher, and Kathy Milar reviewed the entire manuscript. They deserve much credit and none of the blame for this final product. I greatly appreciate the scholarship and sense of history they brought to the task. I thank my undergrad- uate and graduate students of many years whose comments and questions have shaped the content and structure of this book. There are many individuals, libraries, archives, and publishers who allowed me to reprint letters and photo- graphs in this book, and to them I express my considerable appreciation. Finally, I thank my wife, Priscilla, who has worked with me for more than 40 years, and who brings her talents as librarian and educator to all of my writing projects.

To the readers of this book, I confess that as a historian of psychology, some of my most enjoyable professional experiences have occurred in archives reading the personal correspondence of individuals whose ideas shaped my discipline and my world. I hope you enjoy something of that feeling in your reading of the letters in this book. And I hope that you will be stimulated to go beyond the brief stories presented here to learn more about these subjects.

Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr.

Preface xi





The following sources are credited for granting permission to reprint the letters, photographs, and other copyrighted materials used in this book.

Chapter 2: Letters in the public domain from Rand, B. (Ed.) (1927). The Corre- spondence of John Locke and Edward Clarke. London: Oxford University Press. Photo: Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.

Chapter 3: Letters reprinted from Burkhardt, F., & Smith, S. (Eds.) (1987, 1991). The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, Vols. 3 and 7. New York: Cambridge Uni- versity Press. Reprinted with the permission of Cambridge University Press. Photo: Courtesy of the Archives of the History of American Psychology, Uni- versity of Akron.

Chapter 4: Mill letters in the public domain are from Elliot, H. S. R. (Ed.) (1910). The Letters of John Stuart Mill (2 vols.). New York: Longmans Green. The Mill–Taylor letters are from Hayek, F. A. (1951). John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor: Their Friendship and Subsequent Marriage. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. By permission of Bruce Caldwell, General Editor of the Collected Works of F. A. Hayek. Photo of Mill is courtesy of the National Library of Medicine; photo of Taylor is courtesy of the British Library of Political and Economic Sciences.

Chapter 5: Cattell letters are from Sokal, M. M. (Ed.) (1981). An Education in Psy- chology: James McKeen Cattell’s Journal and Letters from Germany and England, 1880–1888. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Permission granted by M. M. Sokal and MIT Press. Cattell photo courtesy of the Library of Congress; Wundt photo courtesy of the Archives of the History of American Psychology, University of Akron.

Chapter 6: Wolfe letters are from the Harry Kirke Wolfe Papers at the Archives of the History of American Psychology, University of Akron. Permission granted by Harry Kirke Wolfe II in 1991 for all subsequent editions. Photo courtesy of the Archives of the History of American Psychology.

Chapter 7: James letters in the public domain from James, H. (Ed.) (1920). The Letters of William James (2 vols.). Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press. Photo: Cour-




tesy of the Archives of the History of American Psychology, University of Akron.

Chapter 8: Letters are from the Hugo Münsterberg Papers in Boston Public Library/Rare Books Department. Reprinted by courtesy of the Trustees of the Boston Public Library. Photo courtesy of the Archives of the History of American Psychology, University of Akron.

Chapter 9: Calkins letters reprinted courtesy of the Wellesley College Archives, Wilma R. Slaight, Archivist. Photo is courtesy of Wellesley College Archives, photo by Partridge.

Chapter 10: Titchener letters are from the Edward Bradford Titchener Papers, #14- 23-545. Reprinted by permission of the Division of Rare Books and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library. Experimentalists photo and Ladd- Franklin photo are courtesy of the Archives of the History of American Psy- chology, University of Akron.

Chapter 11: Jung letters to his wife are from Jung, C. G. (1961). Memories, Dreams, Reflections. New York: Random House. Permissions granted by Marissa Brunetti, Permissions Manager, Random House, Inc., 1992 for all subsequent editions. Freud–Jung letters are from McGuire, W. (Ed.) (1974). The Freud/Jung Letters. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Permission granted by Princeton University Press. Photo courtesy of the Archives of the History of American Psychology, University of Akron.

Chapter 12: Letters from Robert Yerkes are part of the Yerkes Papers at Yale Uni- versity and are reprinted with permission of the Manuscripts and Archives Department of the Yale University Library. The Watson letters are reprinted by permission of James Scott Watson, grandson of John B. Watson. Photo courtesy of the Archives of the History of American Psychology, University of Akron.

Chapter 13: Wolfgang Köhler letters are reprinted by permission of the American Philosophical Society. Molly Harrower–Kurt Koffka letters are from Harrower, M. (1983). Kurt Koffka: An Unwitting Self-Portrait. Gainesville: University Presses of Florida. Permission granted by Molly Harrower in 1991 for all subsequent editions. Kurt Lewin letter is reprinted with permission of his daughter, Miriam Lewin. It was previously published as Everything within me rebels: A letter from Kurt Lewin to Wolfgang Köhler, 1933. Journal of Social Issues, 1987, 42 (4), 39–47. Photos courtesy of the Archives of the History of American Psychology, University of Akron.

Chapter 14: Letters from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI) are reprinted with permission of the Archives of the History of Amer- ican Psychology, University of Akron, David Baker, Director. Krech photo cour- tesy of the Archives of the History of American Psychology, University of Akron. Stagner photo courtesy of his daughter, Rhea Stagner Das.

Chapter 15: B. F. Skinner letters from the Harvard University Archives are reprinted by permission of Julie Skinner Vargas and the B. F. Skinner Founda- tion. Photo of Skinner courtesy of the Archives of the History of American

xiv Credits



Psychology, University of Akron. Photo of Eve and Debbie Skinner and the baby tender courtesy of the B. F. Skinner Foundation.

Chapter 16: Kenneth B. Clark letters are part of the Kenneth Bancroft Clark Papers in the Library of Congress collections and are in the public domain. Photo cour- tesy of the Library of Congress.

Credits xv



1 Reading Other People’s Mail:

The Joys of Historical Research


Historians are archival addicts. They do much of their work in archives because archives contain the raw data that historians need to do their research. Historians relish those opportunities – all too rare, it seems – to sit at a table in an archive, poring over the yellowed and fragile papers of important individuals, long dead, whose personal papers have been preserved to allow subsequent generations to examine their lives and times, to know their stories.

There are the letters of Zelda Fitzgerald that tell of her tumultuous life with famed novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald. There are the letters of former Supreme Court justice, Thurgood Marshall, that describe his strategy as a young attorney to end school desegregation in the American South in the landmark case that became known as Brown v. Board of Education. There are the journals and letters of Charles Darwin that tell of his five-year voyage around the world on HMS Beagle and his subsequent use of the experiences and observations from that historic voyage to construct his theory of evolution by natural selection.

There are literally thousands of collections of letters of individuals, most of them famous, but some not. And in those historically significant collections are millions of stories waiting to be told. Michael Hill (1993) has described the joys of archival research in this way:

Archival work appears bookish and commonplace to the uninitiated, but this mundane simplicity is deceptive. It bears repeating that events and materials in archives are not always what they seem on the surface. There are perpetual sur- prises, intrigues, and apprehensions . . . Suffice it to say that it is a rare treat to visit an archive, to hold in one’s hand the priceless and irreplaceable documents

Note: Portions of this chapter were adapted from a chapter on historiography in Benjamin (1997).




of our unfolding human drama. Each new box of archival material presents opportunities for discovery as well as obligations to treat the subjects of your . . . research with candor, theoretical sophistication, and a sense of fair play. Each archival visit is a journey into an unknown realm that rewards its visitors with challenging puzzles and unexpected revelations. (pp. 6–7)

“Surprise, intrigue, apprehension, puzzles, and discovery” – those are charac- teristics of detective work, and historical research is very much about detective work. A historian begins the search for information in a handful of likely loca- tions. That work leads to other searches which lead to still others. Some searches provide valuable information; others turn out to be dead ends. And most searches point the historian to other sources that might be useful. The search is ended when all the leads have been followed, when there seems no place else to look. Then, if there is sufficient information, the story can be told.

Sometimes this historical detective work leads to an unexpected discovery. Consider this example from historian Gloria Urch who was researching the records in a county historical society when she discovered Rachel Harris, who she describes as perhaps the only African-American nurse during the US Civil War era. Urch wrote:

I was looking for something else when I found her photo . . . I held it for a moment and studied it . . . I put her photo aside and continued my research. A few minutes later the photo – which I thought I had placed securely on the shelf above me – fell into my lap, and those same eyes were gazing up into mine again. Before I left that day I made a copy of Rachel’s photo and obituary and tucked it away. (cited in Hill, 1993, p. 81)

And because of that photo falling into Gloria Urch’s lap, we now know about the life and career of a very interesting person, previously lost to history.

A Secret Society of Psychologists

I have an accidental discovery of my own to describe. I was sitting in the reading room of an archives at the University of Akron one afternoon in 1975, reading the personal correspondence of a psychologist I was researching. On my worktable was a gray cardboard box, made of acid-free material so as to better preserve the unique and valuable documents within. I reached into the box to withdraw a file folder of interest, but when I took it out, I realized that I had withdrawn a second folder, one I had not intended to read. I started to put it back, but the index tab on the folder caught my eye. It read “P.R.T.,” and I wondered what those initials stood for. So I opened the folder – a very thin folder with only four one-page letters inside – and I began to read.

2 Chapter 1



The first thing I noticed was the names on the letters, that is, who wrote them and to whom they were addressed. They were well-known psychologists, indi- viduals who had distinguished themselves as among the best in their field, although that could not be said of them in the late 1930s when they wrote the letters in that folder. The second thing I noticed was that none of the letters indi- cated what the initials PRT stood for, although it was mentioned in all of the letters. Even so, there was enough content in the letters that I had a guess about the PRT – it was some kind of a secret psychological society. Secret societies are always of interest to historians, so I decided to see what I could learn about the PRT.

I began by asking some colleagues who were senior to me in the field of psy- chology if they had ever heard of an organization called the PRT. No one had. Well that made sense; it was, after all, a secret society. Certainly the psychologists whose names were in the PRT folder should know about it, and some of them were still alive. So I wrote to several of them. In return I received a couple of lengthy letters reminiscing about their attendance at the annual meetings of a group that called itself the Psychological Round Table, or PRT. It was indeed a secret organization, begun in 1936 by six experimental psychologists who were in their late twenties to early thirties. The organizers decided to invite about 30 other young psychologists to a weekend meeting in December.

There were some unusual aspects to this group. They did not consider themselves an organization, and they did not call those who attended members. They were, instead, invitees. They were there by invitation only from the organizing group which called itself the “secret six,” and the invitations were issued anew each year. One could not be certain that he would be invited back. “He” is the right pronoun here because the invitees were all males; females were excluded. Further, no invitee could attend once he had reached his fortieth birthday. It was to be a group of young, male experimental psychologists who would meet once each year to discuss the research they were doing or planning.

My correspondents gave me the names of other psychologists they recalled from the meetings, again names that were well known to me, names of the leading researchers in the fields of perception, learning, biopsychology, motivation, and so forth. I wrote to many of those individuals as well who gave me other names and other information about PRT, and I expanded my correspondence network to contain each new set of names. One of these correspondents made an interesting observation in his letter to me. He said that from the language of my letter it appeared that I believed the PRT was a society of the past, whereas it was still an active, albeit secret society.

Most of the people I contacted were pleased to help me in my search for infor- mation about the PRT, especially about the early years of the group. They sent me audiotapes, long letters describing their experiences at the meetings, and some individuals even scheduled interviews with me. Yet there were a few who were

The Joys of Historical Research 3



not encouraging. One psychologist wrote that he saw no purpose in my research and that I should leave the PRT alone and move on to other topics. By that time, however, I knew a great deal about the PRT and about the crucial role it had played in the careers of many of the young psychologists who had attended those meetings. There was too much substance and too much intrigue to just walk away from the story.

I decided that I would focus my research on the PRT from its founding in 1936 through its first 15 years, that is, to around 1951. I chose that narrow time frame because I was most interested in understanding why and how the society started and how it functioned in its earliest years. I knew too that by cutting off my research in 1951 I would not be writing about anyone who might be a member of the contemporary group or even a member in recent years. Over the next year I continued my correspondence and visited a few former PRTers for interviews. I also attended the PRT meeting in Philadelphia in 1976, the fortieth anniversary of the society.

The phone call inviting me to attend the meeting came out of the blue. The caller identified himself and said that he was a member of the current secret six. He said that the group had heard of my research and decided, because it was their fortieth anniversary, to invite me to their meeting to tell them something about the origins of the society. He also told me that not all those of the secret six were in favor of my being invited, and that there would be people at the meeting who might talk t

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