Tag Archives: testing

Forthcoming in HoP: Disciplinary Digital History, Temperament Tests, & Little Albert

A number of articles forthcoming in History of Psychology are now available online. These articles explore the disciplinary structure of psychology using digital history methods, the use of the Humm-Wadsworth Temperament Scale in American industry during the interwar years, and the role of bias and logical errors in debates of the identity of Little Albert. Full titles, authors, and abstracts below.

“THROUGH THE LOOKING-GLASS PsycINFO as an Historical Archive of Trends in Psychology,” by Burman, Jeremy Trevelyan.  Abstract

Those interested in tracking trends in the history of psychology cannot simply trust the numbers produced by inputting terms into search engines like PsycINFO and then constraining by date. This essay is therefore a critical engagement with that longstanding interest to show what it is possible to do, over what period, and why. It concludes that certain projects simply cannot be undertaken without further investment by the American Psychological Association. This is because forgotten changes in the assumptions informing the database make its index terms untrustworthy for use in trend-tracking before 1967. But they can indeed be used, with care, to track more recent trends. The result is then a Distant Reading of psychology, with Digital History presented as enabling a kind of Science Studies that psychologists will find appealing. The present state of the discipline can thus be caricatured as the contemporary scientific study of depressed rats and the drugs used to treat them (as well as of human brains, mice, and myriad other topics). To extend the investigation back further in time, however, the 1967 boundary is also investigated. The author then delves more deeply into the prehistory of the database’s creation, and shows in a précis of a further project that the origins of PsycINFO can be traced to interests related to American national security during the Cold War. In short: PsycINFO cannot be treated as a simple bibliographic description of the discipline. It is embedded in its history, and reflects it.

“Temperamental Workers: Psychology, Business, and the Humm-Wadsworth Temperament Scale in Interwar America,” by Lussier, Kira. Abstract

This article traces the history of a popular interwar psychological test, the Humm-Wadsworth Temperament Scale (HWTS), from its development in the early 1930s to its adoption by corporate personnel departments. In popular articles, trade magazines, and academic journals, industrial psychologist Doncaster Humm and personnel manager Guy Wadsworth trumpeted their scale as a scientific measure of temperament that could ensure efficient hiring practices and harmonious labor relations by screening out “problem employees” and screening for temperamentally “normal” workers. This article demonstrates how concerns about the epistemological and scientific credibility of the HWTS were intimately entangled with concerns about its value to business at every step in the test’s development. The HWTS sought to measure the emotional and social dimensions of an individual’s personality so as to assess their suitability for work. The practice of temperament testing conjured a vision of the subject whose emotional and social disposition was foundational to their own capacity to find employment, and whose capacity to appropriately express, but regulate, their emotions was foundational to corporate order. The history of the HWTS offers an instructive case of how psychological tests embed social hierarchies, political claims, and economic ideals within their very theoretical and methodological foundations. Although the HWTS itself may have faded from use, the test directly inspired creators of subsequent popular personality tests, such as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

“Framing Psychology as a Discipline (1950–1999): A Large-Scale Term Co-Occurrence Analysis of Scientific Literature in Psychology,” by Flis, Ivan; van Eck, Nees Jan. Abstract: Continue reading Forthcoming in HoP: Disciplinary Digital History, Temperament Tests, & Little Albert

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New Article Roundup: Big Data on Asylums, Stratification Theory, Pop Psych, & More!

A quick roundup of new articles for your summer reading pleasure:

Behavioral Scientist
Psychologists Go to War,” by John Greenwood. No abstract. Discusses psychologists’ involvement in WWI and the broader effects of this work.

All the (Pseudo)Science That’s Fit to Print,” by Evan Nesterak. No abstract. Discusses the popular psychology magazine collection held at the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology.

History of Psychology
Buried Layers: On the Origins, Rise, and Fall of Stratification Theories,” by Martin Wieser. Abstract:

This article presents a historical analysis of the origins, rise, and demise of theories of stratification (Schichtentheorien). Following their roots in the ancient metaphysical idea of the “great chain of being,” Aristotle’s scala naturae, the medieval “Jacob’s ladder,” and Leibniz’s concept of the lex continua, I argue that theories of stratification represent the modern heir to the ancient cosmological idea of a harmonious, hierarchical, and unified universe. Theories of stratification reached their heyday during the interwar period within German academia, proliferating over a vast number of disciplines and rising to special prominence within personality psychology, feeding the hope for a unitary image of the world and of human beings, their biological and mental development, their social organization and cultural creations. This article focuses on the role of visuality as a distinct mode of scientific knowledge within theories of stratification as well as the cultural context that provided the fertile ground for their flowering in the Weimar Republic. Finally, the rapid demise of theories of stratification during the 1950s is discussed, and some reasons for their downfall during the second half of the 20th century are explored.

Medical History
Lives in the Asylum Record, 1864 to 1910: Utilising Large Data Collection for Histories of Psychiatry and Mental Health,” by Angela McCarthy, Catharine Coleborne, Maree O’Connor, and Elspeth Knewstubb. Abstract: Continue reading New Article Roundup: Big Data on Asylums, Stratification Theory, Pop Psych, & More!

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New JHBS: Mental Testing, Random Sampling, & More!

The Spring 2017 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online. Articles in the issue explore the promotion of the scientific status of polling, Robert H. Lowie and the concept of culture, the work of Lawrence Krader, and work on mental associations prior to mental testing. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.


The scientific pollsters (Archibald Crossley, George H. Gallup, and Elmo Roper) emerged onto the American news media scene in 1935. Much of what they did in the following years (1935–1948) was to promote both the political and scientific legitimacy of their enterprise. They sought to be recognized as the sole legitimate producers of public opinion. In this essay I examine the, mostly overlooked, rhetorical work deployed by the pollsters to publicize the scientific credentials of their polling activities, and the central role the concept of sampling has had in that pursuit. First, they distanced themselves from the failed straw poll by claiming that their sampling methodology based on quotas was informed by science. Second, although in practice they did not use random sampling, they relied on it rhetorically to derive the symbolic benefits of being associated with the “laws of probability.”

“ANTHROPOLOGY AT WAR: ROBERT H. LOWIE AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE CULTURE CONCEPT, 1904 to 1954,” by STEFAN BARGHEER. The abstract reads, Continue reading New JHBS: Mental Testing, Random Sampling, & More!

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Psychobook is Perfect for Your Coffee Table

A soon to be published book from Princeton Architectural Press may be just what every psychologist and historian of psychology has been waiting for to  adorn their coffee table. Psychobook is a lavishly  illustrated volume documenting the history of psychological testing.

As a recent piece in The New Yorker puts it,

“Psychobook” comprises an eclectic assortment of tests from the early twentieth century to the present, along with new artworks and whimsical questionnaires inspired by the originals. These materials are interlaced with vintage and contemporary photographs, portraits, collages, and film stills of psychologists analyzing patients or staring incisively into space, sometimes in idiosyncratically decorated Manhattan offices. It’s not immediately clear why this book exists, but it would probably look great in a therapist’s waiting room.

Put it on your wish list now.

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