The latest issue of the British Psychological Society’s flagship journal, The Psychologist, has just come out and it is freely available on-line in its entirety.
Of particular interest to historians will be Richard Howard’s piece on the French inventor of the intelligence test (among other things), Alfred Binet. Dr. Howard, who is a Reader in Personality Disorders in the Psychiatry Division at Nottingham University, emphasizes the differences between the value Binet saw in his own test and the uses to which it was put by Lewis Terman and other in the US. He also covers Binet’s wide range of interests prior to the intelligence test, from his work on hysteria and suggestibility in Jean-Martin Charcot’s clinic, to his studies of the unreliability of eyewitnesses in law courts, to his doctorate in insect physiology.
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.
In February 1899, the Committee of Physical Culture of the Chicago Public School Board approved an intensive “anthropometric” study of all children enrolled in the city’s public schools. The study was a detailed attempt to measure the height, weight, strength, lung capacity, hearing, and general fitness of Chicago’s student population. Through 1899 and 1900, thousands of Chicago’s primary, grammar, and high school students had their bodies closely scrutinized, measured, weighed, tested, and, in a few cases, diagrammed. What the School Board members wanted to know was the “fitness” of the student body. Were Chicago public school students — many recently arrived immigrants from eastern and southern Europe — vital and vigorous children who could become energetic modern workers and citizens? (p. 341)
The results of this study had social and political implications.
Reassuringly, the authors stated that the students in the Chicago schools… showed “superiority” in “both size and physical development” when compared with children in other cities. Implicit in the social scientists’ comments was a desire to achieve an ideal type of body—an ideal that many Social Darwinist and eugenicists feared was disappearing. For some social reformers in the late 1890s loss of the ideal type was resulting in “a biological deterioration,” a deterioration caused by waves of immigration and resulting in social and economic degeneracy. (p. 343)
In the August issue of Brain and Cognition, 67(3), Paul Eling, Kristianne Derckx and Roald Maes examine the historical and conceptual background of the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test.
In this paper, we describe the development of the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST). We trace the history of sorting tasks from the studies of Narziss Ach on the psychology of thinking, via the work of Kurt Goldstein and Adhémar Gelb on brain lesioned patients around 1920 and subsequent developments, up to the actual design of the WCST by Harry Harlow, David Grant, and their student Esther Berg. The WCST thus seems to originate from the psychology of thinking (‘Denkpsychologie’), but the test, as it is used in clinical neuropsychological practice, was designed by experimenters working within the behaviorist tradition. We also note recent developments suggesting that, contrary to the general impression, implicit learning may play a role in WCST-like discrimination learning tasks.
This fills a gap in the historical literature, as — although PsycInfo lists 2,276 studies using the Wisconsin Test — no history (that I can find) has previously been published.