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Chapter 2

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University of Toronto Scarborough

Chapter 2 Topic 2 A The Origins of Psychological Testing Psychological testing in its modern form originated little more than one hundred years ago in laboratory studies of sensory discrimination, motor skills, and reaction time. British genius Francis Galton invented the first battery of tests, a peculiar assortment of sensory and motor measures. James McKeen Cattell wrote his classic paper titles Mental Tests and Measurements and his conjecture that perhaps tests would be useful in training, mode of life or indication of disease must certainly rank as one of the prophetic understatements of all time. Rudimentary Forms of Testing in China in 2200 B.C. The Chinese emperor had his officials examine every third year to determine their fitness for office. Such testing was modified and refined until written exams were introduced by the Han dynasty and five topics were tested: civil law, military affairs, agriculture, and geography. The testing practices of the Chinese were unnecessarily gruelling, and they failed to validate their selection procedures. The examination program did incorporate relevant selection criteria penmanship. The system was abolished in 1906. Physiognomy, Phrenology, and the Psychograph Physiognomy is based on the notion that we can judge the inner character of people from their outward appearance, especially their face. Although now largely discredited, physiognomy represents an early form of psychological testing. Interest in physiognomy started with Aristotle and his premise that the soul and the body sympathize with each other he argued that changes in a persons soul (inner character) could impact the appearance of the body, and vice versa. Lohann Lavater published his Essays on Physiognomy and thats when physiognomy began to flourish. Physiognomy remained popular for centuries and laid the foundation for 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 he reasoned to the extent that a specific faculty was well developed, the corresponding component of the brain would be enlarged (and the bumps would signify the enlargement). Johann Spurzheim popularized phrenology into the United States and Great Britain. Henry C. Lavery developed his machine the Psychograph each of the 32 mental faculties was rated 1 through 4 based on the way that probes made contact with the head this was one of the first automated personality descriptions. The Brass Instruments Era of Testing For the first time, psychologists departed from the wholly subjective and introspective methods that had been so fruitlessly pursued in the preceding centuries. Human abilities were tested in laboratories and used objective procedures that could be replicated. The new experimental psychology was itself a dead end, because early psychologists 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 is credited with founding the first psychological laboratory in 1878 in Leipzig, Germany. He was measuring mental processes years earlier using his thought meter a calibratedpendulum with needles sticking off from each side and the observer was to take note of the position of the pendulum when the bells sounded as it swayed from left to right. Wundt believed that the speed of thought might differ from one person to the next. Wundt was rare to acknowledge the individual differences and is more renowned for proposing common laws of thought for the average mind. Galton and the First Battery of Mental Tests Sir Francis Galton pioneered the new experimental psychology in nineteenth century Great Britain. He was obsessed with measurement and his career was dominated by a belief that virtually everything was measurable attempted to measure intelligence by a way of sensory discrimination and reaction times. He also devised techniques for measuring beauty, personality, the boringness of lectures, and the efficacy of prayer. He was more interested in the problems of human evolution than psychology per se. His two most influential works are Hereditary Genius and Inquiries into Human Faculty and its development. He continued the tradition of brass instruments mental testing but with an important difference: his procedures were much more amenable to the timely collection of data from hundreds if not thousands of people. Galton is regarded as the father of mental testing because of his efforts in devising practicable measures of individual differences. Ultimately, Galtons simplistic attempts to gauge intellect with measures of reaction time and sensory discrimination proved fruitless, though he did provide a tremendous impetus to the testing movement by demonstrating that objective tests could be devised and that meaningful sc
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