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The Psychological Testing Movement

Psychological tests are scientific investigations that seek to measure latent variables. The most common method in these tests involves providing a sequence of problems for a participant to solve. These problems reveal various psychological aspects and abilities of an individual. Psychological testing has advanced through the years. According to Hall and Gregory (2011), in its modern form, psychological testing emerged barely a century ago in laboratory studies of sensory discrimination, motor skills, and reaction time. It has many applications in contemporary world. Psychological testing is used in such sectors as education, military, health , among others, to achieve a wide range of desired ends. This presentation describes the main events within the psychological testing movements. It also discusses how the field of psychological testing as it is presently has been revolutionized by the outcome of the movement.

The main events within the movement

Early and rudimentary forms of psychological testing can be traced to ancient China in 2200 B.C. (Hall& Gregory, 2011). However, as Gregory (1992) observes, early experiments of James McKeen Cattell (1860-1944), William Wundt (1832-1920) and Francis Galton (1822-1911) laid the foundation for the 20th century psychological testing movement. From that point onwards, psychological testing has taken many dimensions.

Testing people for intelligence constituted the first aims of the first psychological testing movements. These tests employed a series of activities designed to measure three aspects of intelligence, namely: people’s ability to grasp and relate to abstract ideas, their ability to understand and manipulate reality and their capacity to adapt to new environments, events and change. The major contributors to intelligence testing movement included Alfred Binet (1857-1911), Henry Goddard (1866-1957), Lewis M. Terman (1877-1956) and David Wechsler (1896-1981), among others.

The second batch of testing in the movement focused on personality. These tests mostly employed a properly designed instrument to gather information on a person’s character and psychological make-up. The collected data, together, revealed the personality of the subject under study. The major contributors to the personality testing movement are: Robert S. Wordsworth (1869-1962), Herman Rorschach (1884-1922), Starke R. Hathaway (1903-1984) and J. C. McKinley (1891-1950), among others.

How the field of psychological testing has been revolutionized due to the movement

Psychological testing, as it is presently, is by far a wide expansion of the first forms of testing carried out by pioneers. Intelligence testing has expanded into aptitude measurements that help in defining individual capacity to handle certain tasks as opposed to others in the world of employment. Aptitude tests are used to identify employees who best fit into certain positions in the organizations to optimize productivity. They are also useful in the educational environment. They help to identify the mental ability of different individuals to master different qualities and quantities of knowledge. This differentiation then informs instructional strategies to be used to train different people.

Similarly, intelligence testing is still carried out at an advanced level. These tests help to reveal how different individuals are able to grasp and manipulate the world around them and use those abilities to improve the quality of life. Personality tests have also revolutionized the practice of psychology and the understanding of the human potential and tendency to commit wrong in the world of ethics. They are used in the health industry to identify and treat different personality disorders.


Both the intelligence and personality tests have led to the production of various methods, tools and theories of human behaviour and ability. They continue to inform studies in humanities and the sciences and to provide tools for understanding and interpreting human behaviour in such vital areas as politics and economics. It is, therefore, evident that psychological testing will continue to grow and be theoretically and practically relevant to scholarship, human health and society in general.

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Gregory, R. J. (1992). Psychological Testing: History, Principles, and Applications. Prentice-Hall College Division.

Hall, P. B., & Gregory, R. J. (2011). Psychological Testing: History, Principles, and Applications (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.


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