Wisconsin Card Sorting Test

In the August issue of Brain and Cognition, 67(3), Paul Eling, Kristianne Derckx and Roald Maes examine the historical and conceptual background of the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test.

In this paper, we describe the development of the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST). We trace the history of sorting tasks from the studies of Narziss Ach on the psychology of thinking, via the work of Kurt Goldstein and Adhémar Gelb on brain lesioned patients around 1920 and subsequent developments, up to the actual design of the WCST by Harry Harlow, David Grant, and their student Esther Berg. The WCST thus seems to originate from the psychology of thinking (‘Denkpsychologie’), but the test, as it is used in clinical neuropsychological practice, was designed by experimenters working within the behaviorist tradition. We also note recent developments suggesting that, contrary to the general impression, implicit learning may play a role in WCST-like discrimination learning tasks.

This fills a gap in the historical literature, as — although PsycInfo lists 2,276 studies using the Wisconsin Test — no history (that I can find) has previously been published.

About Jeremy Burman

Jeremy Trevelyan Burman is a senior doctoral student in York University’s Department of Psychology, specializing in the history of developmental psychology and its theory (especially that pertaining to Jean Piaget). Prior to returning to academia, he was a producer at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

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