“Temperamental workers: Psychology, business, and the Humm-Wadsworth Temperament Scale in interwar America,” by Kira Lussier. 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.
The Autumn 2017 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now available. Articles in this issue explore the history of the ambivert, the emergence of victimization surveys, the influence of Fred Keller’s radical behaviorism in Brazil, and ideas about mental evolution and unconscious memory in Victorian Britain. Full details follow below.
“The ambivert: A failed attempt at a normal personality,” by Ian J. Davidson. Abstract:
Recently, attention has been drawn toward an overlooked and nearly forgotten personality type: the ambivert. This paper presents a genealogy of the ambivert, locating the various contexts it traversed in order to highlight the ways in which these places and times have interacted and changed—ultimately elucidating our current situation. Proposed by Edmund S. Conklin in 1923, the ambivert only was meant for normal persons in between the introvert and extravert extremes. Although the ambivert could have been taken up by early personality psychologists who were transitioning from the study of the abnormal to the normal, it largely failed to gain traction. Whether among psychoanalysts, psychiatrists, or applied and personality psychologists, the ambivert was personality non grata. It was only within the context of Eysenck’s integrative view of types and traits that the ambivert marginally persisted up to the present day and is now the focus of sales management and popular psychology.
A special issue of the journal Personality and Individual Differencesmarking the centenary of Hans Eysenck’s birth is now available online. Among the many varied contributions to the forthcoming issue are a number of personal reminiscences of Eysenck and his influence, including ones from his wife Sybil Eysenck and son Michael Eysenck, both psychologists in their own right.
Particularly interesting contributions to the special issue include an article and commentary addressing Eysenck and the question of his Jewish ancestry. Articles that focus on the history of Eysenck and his work are highlighted below.
“Hans J. Eysenck: Introduction to centennial special issue,” by Philip J. Corr.
“Hans Eysenck and the Jewish question: Genealogical investigations,” by Andrew M. Colman and Caren A. Frosch. The abstract reads,
We present evidence establishing that Hans Eysenck was half Jewish. He went out of his way to conceal this fact and to disavow his Jewish ancestry until the publication of his full-length autobiography in 1990, long after he retired, when he revealed that one of his grandparents was Jewish. Using specialized genealogical techniques and resources, we trace his Jewish maternal grandmother, who died in Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1944, and his Jewish maternal grandfather, who practised medicine in Königshütte and later in Berlin. We discuss Eysenck’s possible motives for disavowing his Jewish heritage for most of his life.
“Commentary on “Hans Eysenck and the Jewish Question: Genealogical Investigations” — by Andrew M. Colman and Caren A. Frosch,” by Roderick D. Buchanan. The abstract reads,
Several intriguing questions pertaining to Hans Eysenck’s family background were raised but only partially resolved by Buchanan (2010). Here I comment on the implications of the new genealogical evidence unearthed by Coleman and Frosch (2016; this Special Issue) in light of Eysenck’s life and career.
The March issue of The Psychologist, the flagship magazine of the British Psychological Society, includes an article marking the centenary of psychologist Hans Eysenck’s birth. Eysenck, a controversial and very public figure within psychology, would have celebrated this milestone birthday on March 4th 2016. As the article notes,
Hans J. Eysenck (1916–1997) enjoyed an extraordinary life in British psychology, much of it played out in the limelight of public attention. His fame and influence extended beyond the shores of these isles, to encompass the globe. He inspired generations of psychologists, many of whom were enthralled by his popular books that made psychology seem so vital, relevant and even urgent. His was an open invitation: arise from the supine position on the analytical couch, leap out from the comfort of the philosophical armchair, and visit the psychology laboratory – one chapter in Fact and Fiction in Psychology (Eysenck, 1965a) is titled, ‘Visit to a psychological laboratory’. His easy-to-understand causal theories of ‘what makes people tick’ (exposing the inner working of the human clock) were especially fascinating to an inquisitive public. He also courted controversy: his style of advocating change and some of the positions he took, especially on politically charged issues like race and IQ, attracted criticism of his work, and of him.
As described by the book’s title, the included essays cover a range of aspects, and are meant to provide “both an introduction to the psychology of personhood, and an invitation to participate in it” (p. 16). Of particular interest to AHP readers is the “Historical Perspectives” section, including essays by Kurt Danziger, Jeff Sugarman, and James T. Lamiell. With topics from ‘critical personalism’, to ‘historical ontology’, to ‘identity and narrative’, this collection of essays will please historians, theorists, and those in between who have any interest in a psychology of persons that is neither fixated on traits nor statistical methods.