Origins of psychological testing - a summary of chapter 2 of Psychological testing: History, principles, and applications by Gregory (7th edition)

Psychological testing: History, principles, and applications (7th edition)
Gregory, R. J. (2014).
Chapter 2
Origins of psychological testing.

The origins of psychological testing

Psychological testing in its modern form originated little more than 100 years ago in laboratory studies of sensory discrimination, motor skills, and reaction time.
Francis Galton invented the first battery of tests.

Rudimentary forms of testing in China in 2200 b.c

Rudimentary forms of testing date back to at least 2200 b.c when the Chinese emperor has his officials examined every third year to determine their fitness for office.
Such testing was modified and refined over the centuries until written exams were introduced in the Han dynasty.

The testing practices were unnecessarily gruelling, and the Chinese also failed to validate their selection procedures.
But the examination program incorporated relevant selection criteria.

Physiognomy, phrenology, and the psychograph

Physiognomy: based n the notion that we can judge the inner character of people from their outward appearance, especially the face.
It represents an early form of psychological testing.
Interest in physiognomy can be dated back to the fourth century.

Physiognomy remained popular for centuries and laid the foundation for the more specialized form of quackery, phrenology.
Phrenology: reading ‘bumps’ on the head.
The founding of phrenology is usually attributed to Franz Joseph Gall.
He argued that the brain is the organ of sentiments and faculties and that these capacities are localized. To the extent that a faculty was well developed, the corresponding component of the brain would be enlarged and in turn form a bump because the skill conforms the shape of the brain. (This is incorrect).
Johann Spurzheim popularized phrenology.

The psychograph was a machine that measured phrenoloy.
Made by Henry C. Lavery in 1931.

The brass instruments era of testing

Experimental psychology flourished in the late 1800s in continental Europe and Great Britain.
Human abilities were tested in laboratories with objective procedures that were capable of replication.
The problem with experimental psychology was that it mistook simple sensory processes for intelligence.
They used assorted brass instruments to measure sensory thresholds and reaction times, thinking that such abilities were at the heart of intelligence.

Wilhelm Wundt founded the first psychological laboratory in 1879 in Leipzig.
He believed that the speed of thought might differ from one person to the next.

Galton and the first battery of mental tests

Francis Galton (1822-1911) pioneered the new experimental psychology in Great Britain.
He was obsessed with measurements.
Galton demonstrates that individual differences not only exist but also are objectively measurable.

Galton continued the tradition of brass instruments, but with an important difference: his procedures were much more amenable to the timely collection of data from hundreds if not thousands of subjects.
The tests and measures involved both the physical and behavioural domains.
He demonstrated that objective tests could be devised and that meaningful scores could be obtianed through standardized procedures.

Cattell imports brass instruments to the United States

James McKeen Cattell studied the new experimental psychology with both Wundt and Galton before settling at Columbia University where, for 26 years, he was the undisputed dean of American psychology.
Cattell wanted to study individual differences (and did).
He invented the term ‘mental test’.

Wissler made experimental psychology turn away from the brass instruments approach.

In 1905, Binet introduced his scale of intelligence.

Rating scales and their origins

Rating scales are widely used in psychology as a means of quantifying subjective psychological variables of many kinds.
A crude form of rating scale can be traced back to Galen, the second century Greco-Roman physician.
The first person to devise and apply rating scales for psychological variables was Christian Thomasius (1655-1728).

Changing conceptions of mental retardation in the 1800s

By the early 1800s medical practitioners realized that some of those with psychiatric impairment had reversible illnesses that did not necessarily imply diminished intellect, whereas those with mental retardation showed a greater developmental continuity and invariably had impaired intellect.
A newfound humanism began to influence social practices toward individuals with psychological and mental disabilities.
With this humanism there arose a greater interest in the diagnosis and remediation of mental retardation.

Esquirol and diagnosis in mental retardation

Around the beginning of the nineteenth century, many physicians had begun to perceive the difference between mental retardation and mental illness.
Esquirol (1772-1840) was the first to formalize the difference in writing.
He proposed the first classification system in mental retardation and language skills were the main diagnostic criteria.

Seguin and education of individuals with mental retardation

Edouard Seguin helped establish a new humanism toward those with mental retardation in the late 1800s.

Influence of Binet’s early research on his test

Alfred Binet (1857-1911) invented the first modern intelligence test in 1905.
Binet was a prolific researcher and author long before he turned his attentions to intelligence testing.

Binet and testing for higher mental processes

Binet argued that intelligence could be better measured by means of the higher psychological processes rather than elementary sensory processes such as reaction time.

Binet and Simon were called to develop a practical tool for selecting children for which special placement in schools was needed.
Thus arose the first formal scale for assessing the intelligence of children.
The scale was appropriate for assessing the entire gamut of intelligence.
The purpose was classification, not measurement.

The revised scales and the advent of IQ

In 1908, Binet and Simon published a revision of he 1905 scale.
The major innovation of he 1908 scale was the introduction of the concept of mental level.
The idea of deriving a mental level was a monumental development that was to influence the character of intelligence testing throughout the twentieth century (later mental age).

Testing form the early 1900s to the present

With the successful application of Binet’s mental test, psychologists realized that their inventions could have pragmatic significance for many different segments of society.
The profusion of tests developed early in the twentieth century helped shape the character of contemporary tests.

Early used and abuses of tests in the United States

First translation of the Binet-Simon scale

Goddhard gained a reputation as one of the leading experts on the use of intelligence tests to identify persons with impaired intellect.
He believed that the impaired children should be segregated so that they would be prevented from ‘contaminating society’.

The Binet-Simon immigration

When Goddard visits Ellis Island, he became convinced that the rates of feeblemindedness were much higher than estimated by the physicians who staffed the immigration service.
He became a apostle for the use of intelligence tests to identify feebleminded immigrants.

Goddard’s schlarly views were influenced by the social ideologies of his time.

Testing for giftedness: Leta Stetter Hollingworth

One of the earliest uses of IQ tests was testing for giftedness.
Hollingworth demonstrated that children with high genius showed significantly greater school achievement than those of mere ordinary genius.
She dispelled the belief that gifted children should not be moved ahead in school because they would lag behind older children in penmanship and other motor skills.
She advanced the science of IQ testing.
She proposed a revolving fund from which gifted children could draw for their development.

The Stanford-Binet: The early mainstay of IQ

It was Stanford professor Lewis M. Terman (1857-1956) who popularized IQ testing with his revision of the Binet scales in 1916.
The Stanford-Bined was a substantial revision.
It was the standard of intelligence testing for decades.

Group tests and the classification of WWI army recruits

Researchers sought group mental test to supplement tests imported from France.
Group test were slow to catch on, partly because the early versions still had to be scored laboriously by hand.

The slow pace of developments in group testing picked up dramatically as the United States entered WWI.
Robert M. Yerkes convinced the U.S. government and the army that all of its recruits should be given intelligence tests for purposes of classification and assignment.
It gave rise to the army Alpha and the army Beta.

The army Alpha and Beta examinations

The alpha consisted of eight verbally loaded tests for average and high-functioning recruits.
The army beta was a nonverbal group test designed for the use with illiterates and recruits whose first language was not English.

The army testing was intended to help segregate and eliminate the mentally incompetent, to classify men according to their mental ability, and to assist in the placement of competent men in responsible positions.

Early educational testing

Yerkes’s grand scheme for testing army recruits helped to usher in the era of group tests.
Machine scoring was introduced in the 1930s, making objective group tests even more efficient than before.

The development of the aptitude tests

Aptitude tests measure more specific and delimited abilities than intelligence tests.
A single aptitude test will measure just one ability domain.
The development of aptitude tests lagged behind of that of intelligence tests for two reasons

  • Statistical
    A new technique, factor analysis, was often needed to discern which aptitudes were primary and, therefore, distinct from each other.
    Research on this was not refined until the 1930s
  • Social
    The absence of a practical application for such refined instruments.
    It was not until WWII that a pressing need arose to select candidates who were highly qualified for very difficult and specialized tasks.

Personality and vocational testing after WWI

It was not until WWI that personality tests emerged in a form resembling their contemporary appearance.
It was needed to detect which army recruits were susceptible for psychoneurosis.
Made by Woodworth.
In addition, the MMPI introduced the use of validity scales to determine fake bad, fake good, and random response patterns.

The origins of projective testing

The projective approach originated with the word association method pioneered by Galton.
Also the Rorschach ink bolds.

The development of interest inventories

Psychologists were devising measures for guidance and counselling of the masses of more normal persons.
The interest inventory, which has roots going back to Thorndike.

The emergence of structured personality tests

Beginning in the 1940s, personality tests began to flourish as useful tools for clinical evaluation and also for assessment of the normal spectrum of functioning.

The expansion and proliferation of testing

In the twenty-first century, the reach of testing continues to increase. Both in one-to-one clinical uses and in group testing fro societal applications.

Evidence-based practice and outcomes assessment

Evidence-based practice: the integration of best research evidence with clinical expertise and patient values.
The advance of evidence-based practice is part of a worldwide trend to require proof that treatments and interventions yield measurable positive outcomes.

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Student at IUB bwp


I still have some questions about the use of psychological test and assessment in military services

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