This paper presents a method for the digital history of a discipline (social psychology in this application) through the analysis of scientific publications. The titles of a comprehensive set of papers published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (1965–2021) were collected, yielding a total of 10,222 items. The corpus thus constructed underwent several stages of preprocessing until the final conversion into a terms x time-points matrix, where terms are stemmed words and multi-words. After normalizing frequencies via a chi square-like transformation, clusters of words portraying similar temporal patterns were identified by functional (textual) data analysis and distance-based curve clustering. Among the best candidates in terms of the number of clusters, the solutions with six, nine and thirteen clusters (from lower to higher resolution) have been chosen and the nesting relationship demonstrated. They reveal – at different levels of granularity - increasing, decreasing, and stable keywords trends, highlighting methods, theories, and application domains that have become more popular in recent years, lost popularity, or have remained in common use. Moreover, this method allows to highlight historical issues (such as crises in the discipline or debates over the use of terms). The results highlight which were the core topics of social psychology in the past and today, underlying the crucial contribution of this method for the digital history of a discipline.
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