PSYCHOLOGICAL TESTING AND AMERICAN SOCIETY, 1890-1930 by Michael M.--Ed. Sokal

PSYCHOLOGICAL TESTING AND AMERICAN SOCIETY, 1890-1930

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Eight scholarly essays on the historical and intellectual origins of standardized mental tests in American society, from a symposium on the subject organized by the editor in 1984. As an American phenomenon, intelligence testing grew out of the efforts of Harvard psychiatrist Robert M. Yerkes to study human behavior as a science rather than a branch of philosophy; despite Yerkes' early, unpopular emphasis on testing intelligence levels in frogs, jellyfish, worms, mice, and crows, his persistent efforts to promote what became known as ""psychometrics"" led to the institutionalization of mental tests in the recruitment of soldiers for WW I. These essays focus on the specific achievements of Yerkes and his fellow psychiatrists, chronicling, among other developments, the invention of the multiple-choice question by Arthur S. Otis (which made possible the mass testing we practice today) and the debates among experts over whether tests should be administered one-at-a-time, to individuals, or all-at-once, to large groups. Particularly stimulating is a discussion by Henry L. Minton (Univ. of Windsor, Ontario) of how some psychiatrists--notably Lewis L. Terman--saw mental testing as a democratic tool, a way to establish social hierarchies based on brain-power rather than on economic class. In his introduction, Sokol argues that the often heated debate over the value of these tests could use some informed and dispassionate discussion based on historical facts. This book provides that discussion and those facts, and along the way paints a lively, intelligent picture of the early mental-testing movement.

Pub Date: June 2nd, 1987
Publisher: Rutgers Univ. Press