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History of Psychological Assessment - Essay Example

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In rendering a critical appraisal of psychological assessment culled from a historical perspective, a significant event in its development that certainly warrants mention is the introduction of Alpha and Beta testing during World War I. Attempts at procuring a measurable gauge of intelligence have always been followed by a whirlwind of controversy, as practitioners have continually argued on the true causes of its variation…
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History of Psychological Assessment
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Download file to see previous pages However, certain quarters harbored a dissenting view and maintained that intelligence was a fixed property, the implication lending credence to the notion that a nation with superior intelligence could be segmented and developed with specific testing techniques.
Robert Yerkes was one of those convinced that with intelligence being a measurable constant, intelligence tests could be executed and quantified like an exact science. It is to be recalled that during this period psychology was considered to be a mere pseudoscience, and Yerkes was determined to find a way in which he could bring credibility to his craft. He wanted to have psychology recognized as 'hard' science and believed that using a 'scientific' approach to mental testing looked like a promising route to achieve this. (Gould, 1982) He was under the impression that rigorous, statistic-based tests would uplift the overall image of psychology within the scientific community.
The advent of the First World War gave him the perfect opportunity to showcase the "hard" techniques of mental testing, and thus present to everyone that psychology was indeed a creditable science. In 1917, Yerkes was the president of the American Psychology Association, and under their auspices he spearheaded what was to become one of the biggest intelligence tests in history.
Faced with the daunting task of gauging the capabilities of more than 1.75 million new recruits, the United States Army handed over the reins to Yerkes and his team from the APA. He devised three types of tests for the recruits. The first was an alpha test, which was a written exam for those who were literate. According to Sticht & Armstrong (2003), it had eight parts, including analogies, filling in the missing number, and unscrambling a sentence. The beta test was a seven-part pictorial test for those who were illiterate. Test components included a picture completion test, and numbering tasks among others. The third test was an individual examination, and this was administered to those who had failed the beta It is pertinent to note that the Alpha and Beta tests could be applicable to big groups, and in most cases took no more than an hour.
In analyzing his findings, Yerkes insisted that the tests administered were an accurate barometer of what he had termed "native intellectual ability", or innate intelligence that was unaffected by culture and educational opportunities (Gould, 1982) The tests would go on to generate a significant amount of interest in the country, and with that Yerkes had achieved his long-standing goal of making psychology a credible, "hard" science.
In retrospect, the beta and alpha tests promulgated by Yerkes were inherently flawed in so many aspects. Its findings reflected that the average mental age of a white American adult was 13, which if equated in contemporary terms would make them the equivalent of a semi-retarded person. The average mental age of a black American adult was 10, and the scores of immigrants were comparably low. The hypothesis here being, the darker the skin of the person, the less "intelligent" he would be.
These findings and the methodologies implemented are now found to be both ethically and scientifically wanting. While it had been ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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