In a recent issue of History of Psychology, 11(3), Robert Gibby and Michael Zickar trace the early history of personality testing by American industry.
Objective personality testing began with Woodworth’s Personal Data Sheet in 1917. That test was developed to identify soldiers prone to nervous breakdowns during enemy bombardment in World War I (WWI). Soon after, many competing personality tests were developed for use in industry. Many of these tests, like Woodworth’s, focused on the construct of employee maladjustment and were deemed important in screening out applicants who would create workplace disturbances. In this article, the authors review the history of these early personality tests, especially the Bernreuter Personality Inventory and the Humm-Wadsworth Temperament Scale, and discuss the implications of personality testers’ obsession with the construct of employee maladjustment. In addition, the authors discuss the industry’s obsession with emotional maladjustment and how this obsession coincided with a cultural shift in norms relating to cultural expression.