Personnel and vocational testing has made a huge impact in public and private organizations by helping organizations choose the best employees for a particular job (personnel testing) and helping individuals choose occupations for which they are best suited (vocational testing). The history of personnel and vocational testing is one in which scientific advances were influenced by historical and technological developments. The first systematic efforts at personnel and vocational testing began during World War I when the US military needed techniques to sort through a large number of applicants in a short amount of time. Techniques of psychological testing had just begun to be developed at around the turn of the 20th century and those techniques were quickly applied to the US military effort. After the war, intelligence and personality tests were used by business organizations to help choose applicants most likely to succeed in their organizations. In addition, when the Great Depression occurred, vocational interest tests were used by government organizations to help the unemployed choose occupations that they might best succeed in. The development of personnel and vocational tests was greatly influenced by the developing techniques of psychometric theory as well as general statistical theory. From the 1930s onward, significant advances in reliability and validity theory provided a framework for test developers to be able to develop tests and validate them. In addition, the civil rights movement within the United States, and particularly the Civil Rights Act of 1964, forced test developers to develop standards and procedures to justify test usage. This legislation and subsequent court cases ensured that psychologists would need to be involved deeply in personnel testing. Finally, testing in the 1990s onward was greatly influenced by technological advances. Computerization helped standardize administration and scoring of tests as well as opening up the possibility for multimedia item formats. The introduction of the internet and web-based testing also provided additional challenges and opportunities.
Michael J. Zickar
Andrew S. Winston
The use of psychological concepts and data to promote ideas of an enduring racial hierarchy dates from the late 1800s and has continued to the present. The history of scientific racism in psychology is intertwined with broader debates, anxieties, and political issues in American society. With the rise of intelligence testing, joined with ideas of eugenic progress and dysgenic reproduction, psychological concepts and data came to play an important role in naturalizing racial inequality. Although racial comparisons were not the primary concern of most early mental testing, results were employed to justify beliefs regarding Black “educability” and the dangers of Southern and Eastern European immigration. Mainstream American psychology became increasingly liberal and anti-racist in the late 1930s and after World War II. However, scientific racism did not disappear and underwent renewal during the civil rights era and again during the 1970s and 1990s, Intelligence test scores were a primary weapon in attempts to preserve segregated schools and later to justify economic inequality. In the case of Henry Garrett, Arthur Jensen, and Philippe Rushton, their work included active, public promotion of their ideas of enduring racial differences, and involvement with publications and groups under control of racial extremists and neo-Nazis. Despite 100 years of strong critiques of scientific racism, a small but active group of psychologists helped revive vicious 19th-century claims regarding Black intelligence, brain size, morality, criminality, and sexuality, presented as detached scientific facts. These new claims were used in popular campaigns that aimed to eliminate government programs, promote racial separation, and increase immigration restriction. This troubling history raises important ethical questions for the discipline.