Special Issue of HoP: “Mental Testing after 1905: Uses in Different Local Contexts”

The August 2014 issue of History of Psychology is now online. A special issue on “Mental Testing after 1905: Uses in Different Local Contexts” edited by Annette Mülberger (left), the issue includes articles on intelligence testing in the Soviet Union, pedagogical uses of intelligence tests in Spain, psychological testing in Brazil, and more. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“The need for contextual approaches to the history of mental testing,”by Annette Mülberger. The abstract reads,

The effort to locate the origin and follow the historical development of mental tests comes as no surprise, given the success the technique enjoyed throughout the 20th century. It is a controversial, yet also essential, professional tool that characterizes the work of the psychologist in contemporary society. Why write more on this subject? In this introductory article, Mülberger will argue that although we have a great number of publications at our disposal, new contributions are needed to reinterpret this crucial episode in the history of psychology from different angles. Although unable to cover the huge number of publications, she will first comment briefly on some contributions that marked historical research in the second half of the 20th century. In doing so, she will focus on works that aim to explain the origin and historical development of mental testing. Mülberger will thereby leave aside the debate regarding the reliability of some empirical data gathered by certain psychologists and the social consequences of intelligence testing. She will then move on to evaluate the status quo by considering Carson’s (2007) ambitious research and the historiographical idea guiding this monographic issue.

“A psychology for pedagogy: Intelligence testing in USSR in the 1920s,” by Irina Leopoldoff. The abstract reads,

This article examines a case of intelligence testing conducted in the mid-1920s, while considering the broader political and scientific context of Soviet life. Guided by questions about the status and influence of mental measurement in Russian society, previously and after the revolution, as well as asking about the main actors in the fields linked to testing, such as psychology, pedagogy, and pedology, during this tumultuous period. To answer these questions, journals and difficult-to-access archival sources were used, which provided evidence regarding the enthusiasm psychological testing had on scholars in the 1920s and the institutional support they received for their surveys. The article offers some hints concerning why this was so and why this situation changed completely a decade later.

“Aims of teachers’ psychometry: Intelligence testing in Barcelona (1920),” by Annette Mülberger, Mònica Balltondre, & Andrea Graus. The abstract reads,

After World War I, members of the teaching profession in Spain were interested in appropriating psychological measurement and bringing it within the expertise of their occupational field, with the intention of upgrading their profession. As professionals devoted to the child, educators attempted to explore the infantile psyche using intelligence tests, with the intention of making scientific contributions to the field of psychology. In the present article we take as a key event one particular application enacted by a Catalan teacher, and insert that case study into the complex local scientific and educational context. It was a context in which the professional interests of teachers competed with those of school physicians, psychologists, and pedologists, at a time when important changes in pedagogical methods and school systems were under way. In the hand of teachers, intelligence testing was mainly seen as a malleable method on which to base daily educational practice on a more individualized and scientific basis. The historical analysis of the case turned out to be instrumental in the identification of common features and particularities attributable to specific local needs. In a society where public schooling competed with private schools, the results of mental testing were used to demonstrate publicly the excellent intellectual level of children attending a public graded primary school in Barcelona.

“Making up intelligence scales: De Sanctis’s and Binet’s tests, 1905 and after,” by Elisabetta Cicciola, Renato Foschi, & Giovanni Pietro Lombardo. The abstract reads,

Sante De Sanctis (1862–1935) and Alfred Binet (1857–1911), the latter in collaboration with Théodore Simon (1873–1960), introduced their intelligence tests to the scientific community at the Fifth International Congress of Psychology, held in Rome in 1905 on April 26–30. The cultural and political contexts within which De Sanctis and Binet developed their respective intelligence tests showed certain similarities. Nevertheless, De Sanctis’s intelligence test and Binet’s test did differ in certain respects. The objective of this article is to understand the differences and similarities between the Parisian and the Roman contexts in relation to mental testing, and to investigate the theoretical-methodological contributions of each. In addition, the article analyzes the “diversity” of De Sanctis’s context and test, which did not influence the international psychology.

Psychological measurement in Brazil in the 1920s and 1930s,” by Ana Maria Jacó-Vilela. The abstract reads,

This article deals with the initial applications of psychological tests in Brazil during the 1920s and 1930s, and it is focused on their use in education under the influence of the New School and the Mental Hygiene movements. Thus, the objective is to highlight the implication of psychology as a “social science” (Rose, 1996), a support to the legitimacy of racial theories in force during that period.

“Mental testing in the early twentieth century: Internationalizing the mental testing story,” by John Carson. The abstract reads,

This article suggests a possible approach to analyzing the global history of intelligence testing in light of some recent work in the history of science and science studies. In particular, it uses work in metrology and subaltern studies to develop possible models for the dissemination, appropriation, and transformation of mental testing in the early 20th century. It draws on the accounts presented in the other articles in this collection to substantiate its claims.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.