The July/August issue of the American Psychological Association‘s Monitor on Psychology is now online. This issue’s Time Capsule section features an article on psychologist E. G. Boring’s popular 1943 book Psychology for the Fighting Man. As Ben Harris describes in the piece,
At first, the book was planned as a textbook for officer candidates to educate them about “the great human war machine.” Boring was a logical choice for editor because he had done psychological work in World War I and was first author of a popular, collaborative introductory text. But plans for such a textbook were scrapped in favor of a paperback geared toward the high-school reading level, thanks to Col. Joseph Greene, editor of the popular Infantry Journal, which had a sideline of book publishing. Its 25¢ Fighting Forces Penguin Specials were cheap paperbacks modeled after a British series that Penguin Books created to make money and circumvent wartime paper rationing.
Greene convinced Boring to aim the book at general readers with no college education. As the inside cover explained, “the corporal in the next bunk can get as much out of the book as his colonel can.”
The book’s appeal began with its striking cover, which promised it would tell readers “what you should know about yourself and others.” Using a technique that ad men had perfected in the 1930s, the editors aroused the soldier’s fears and then promised to show the path to safety. The book promised “practical ideas that will improve his personal adjustment, and give him a better chance to stay off the casualty lists than he already has.”
The full article can be read online here.