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from those in which his mental qualities and dispositions would make a
truly successful advance improbable.

The problem accordingly has been handed over from the vocational
counselors to the experimental psychologists, and it is certainly in
the spirit of the modern tendency toward applied psychology that the
psychological laboratories undertake the investigation and withdraw it
from the dilettantic discussion of amateur psychologists or the mere
impressionism of the school-teachers. Even those early beginnings
indicate clearly that the goal can be reached only through exact,
scientific, experimental research, and that the mere naïve
methods - for instance, the filling-out of questionnaires which may be
quite useful in the first approach - cannot be sufficient for a real,
persistent furtherance of economic life and of the masses who seek
their vocations. In order to gain an analysis of the individual,
Parsons made every applicant answer in writing a long series of
questions which referred to his habits and his emotions, his
inclinations and his expectations, his traits and his experiences. The
psychologist, however, can hardly be in doubt that just the mental
qualities which ought to be most important for the vocational
counselor can scarcely be found out by such methods. We have
emphasized before that the ordinary individual knows very little of
his own mental functions: on the whole, he knows them as little as he
knows the muscles which be uses when he talks or walks. Among his
questions Parsons included such ones as: "Are your manners quiet,
noisy, boisterous, deferential, or self-assertive? Are you thoughtful
of the comfort of others? Do you smile naturally and easily, or is
your face ordinarily expressionless? Are you frank, kindly, cordial,
respectful, courteous in word and actions? Do you look people frankly
in the eye? Are your inflections natural, courteous, modest, musical,
or aggressive, conceited, pessimistic, repellent? What are your powers
of attention, observation, memory, reason, imagination, inventiveness,
thoughtfulness, receptiveness, quickness, analytical power,
constructiveness, breadth, grasp? Can you manage people well? Do you
know a fine picture when you see it? Is your will weak, yielding,
vacillating, or firm, strong, stubborn? Do you like to be with people
and do they like to be with you?" - and so on. It is clear that the
replies to questions of this kind can be of psychological value only
when the questioner knows beforehand the mind of the youth, and can
accordingly judge with what degree of understanding, sincerity, and
ability the circular blanks have been filled out. But as the questions
are put for the very purpose of revealing the personality, the entire
effort tends to move in a circle.

To break this circle, it indeed becomes necessary to emancipate one's
self from the method of ordinary self-observation and to replace it by
objective experiment in the psychological laboratory. Experimentation
in such a laboratory stands in no contrast to the method of
introspection. A contrast does exist between self-observation and
observation on children or patients or primitive peoples or animals.
In their case the psychologist observes his material from without. But
in the case of the typical laboratory experiment, everything is
ultimately based on self-observation; only we have to do with the
self-observation under exact conditions which the experimenter is able
to control and to vary at will. Even Parsons sometimes turned to
little experimental inquiries in which he simplified some well-known
methods of the laboratory in order to secure with the most elementary
means a certain objective foundation for his mental analysis. For
instance, he sometimes examined the memory by reading to the boys
graded sentences containing from ten to fifty words and having them
repeat what they remembered, or he measured with a watch the rapidity
of reading and writing, or he determined the sensitiveness for the
discrimination of differences by asking them to make a point with a
pencil in the centres of circles of various sizes. But if such
experimental schemes, even of the simplest form, are in question, it
seems a matter of course that the plan ought to be prescribed by real
scientists who specialize in the psychological field. The
psychologist, for instance, surely cannot agree to a method which
measures the memory by such a method of having spoken sentences
repeated and the quality of the memory faculty naïvely graded
according to the results. He knows too well that there are many
different kinds of memory, and would always determine first which type
of memory functions is to be examined if memory achievements are
needed for a particular calling.

But even with a more exact method of experimenting, such a procedure
would not be sufficient to solve the true problem. A second step would
still be necessary: namely, the adaptation of the experimental result
to the special psychological requirements of the economic activity;
and this again presupposes an independent psychological analysis. Most
of the previous efforts have suffered from the carelessness with which
this second step was ignored, and the special mental requirements were
treated as a matter of course upon which any layman could judge. In
reality they need the most careful psychological analysis, and only if
this is carried out with the means of scientific psychology, can a
study of the abilities of the individual become serviceable to the
demands of the market. Such a psychological disentangling of the
requirements of the callings, in the interest of guidance, is
attempted in the material which the various vocational institutes have
prepared, but it seldom goes beyond commonplaces. We read there, for
instance,[5] for the confectioner: "Boys in this industry must be
clean, quick, and strong. The most important qualities desired are
neatness and adaptability to routine"; or, for the future baker, the
boy "ought to know how to conduct himself and to meet the public"; or
for the future architectural designer, "he must have creative ability,
artistic feeling, and power to sketch"; or for the dressmaker, she
"should have good eyesight and good sense of color, and an ability to
use her hands readily; she should be able to apply herself steadily
and be fairly quick in her movements; neatness of person is also
essential"; or for the stenographer, she must be "possessed of
intelligence, good judgment, and common sense; must have good
eyesight, good hearing, and a good memory; must have quick perception,
and be able to concentrate her attention completely on any matter in
hand." It is evident that all this is extremely far from any
psychological analysis in the terms of science. All taken together, we
may, therefore, say that in the movement for vocational guidance
practically nothing has been done to make modern experimental
psychology serviceable to the new task. But on the one side, it has
shown that this work of the experimental psychologist is the next step
necessary. On the other side, it has become evident that in the
vocation bureaus appropriate social agencies are existing which are
ready to take up the results of such work, and to apply them for the
good of the American youth and of commerce and industry, as soon as
the experimental psychologist has developed the significant methods.




VI

SCIENTIFIC MANAGEMENT


Before we discuss some cases of such experimental investigations, we
may glance at that other American movement, the well-known systematic
effort toward scientific management which has often been interpreted
in an expansive literature.[6] Enthusiastic followers have declared it
to be the greatest advance in industry since the introduction of the
mill system and of machinery. Opponents have hastily denounced it as a
mistake, and have insisted that it proved a failure in the factories
in which it has been introduced. A sober examination of the facts soon
demonstrates that the truth lies in the middle. Those followers of
Frederick W. Taylor who have made almost a religion out of his ideas
have certainly often exaggerated the practical applicability of the
new theories, and their actual reforms in the mills have not seldom
shown that the system is still too topheavy; that is, there are too
many higher employees necessary in order to keep the works running on
principles of scientific management. On the other hand, the opposition
which comes from certain quarters, - for instance, from some
trade-unions, - may be disregarded, as it is not directed against the
claim that the efficiency can be heightened, but only against some
social features of the scheme, such as the resulting temporary
reduction of the number of workmen. But nobody can deny that this
revolutionary movement has introduced most valuable suggestions which
the industrial world cannot afford to ignore, and that as soon as
exaggerations are avoided and experience has created a broader
foundation, the principles of the new theory will prove of lasting
value. We shall have to discuss, at a later point, various special
features of the system, especially the highly interesting motion
study. Here we have to deal only with those tendencies of the movement
and with those interests which point toward our present problem, the
mental analysis of the individual employees in order to avoid misfits.

The approach to this problem, indeed, seems unavoidable for the
students of scientific management, as its goal is an organization of
economic work by which the waste of energy will be avoided and the
greatest increase in the efficiency of the industrial enterprise will
be reached. The recognition that this can never be effected by a mere
excessive driving of the workingmen belongs to its very
presuppositions. The illusory means of prolongation of the
working-time and similar devices by which the situation of the
individual deteriorates would be out of the question; on the contrary,
the heightening of the individual's joy in the work and of the
personal satisfaction in one's total life development belongs among
the most important, indirect agencies of the new scheme. This end is
reached by many characteristic changes in the division of labor; also
by a new division between supervisors and workers, by transformations
of the work itself and of the tools and vehicles. But as a by-product
of these efforts the demand necessarily arose for means by which the
fit individuals could be found for special kinds of labor. The more
scientific management introduced changes, by which the individual
achievement often had to become rather complicated and difficult, the
more it became necessary to study the skill and the endurance and the
intelligence of the individual laborers in order to entrust these new
difficult tasks only to the most appropriate men in the factories and
mills. The problem of individual selection accordingly forced itself
on the new efficiency engineers, and they naturally recognized that
the really essential traits and dispositions were the mental ones. In
the most progressive books of the new movement, this need of
emphasizing the selection of workers with reference to their mental
equipment comes to clear expression.

Yet this is very far from a real application of scientific psychology
to the problem at hand. Wherever the question of the selection of the
fit men after psychological principles is mentioned in the literature
of this movement, the language becomes vague, and the same men, who
use the newest scientific knowledge whenever physics or mathematics or
physiology or chemistry are involved, make hardly any attempts to
introduce the results of science when psychology is in question. The
clearest insight into the general situation may be found in the most
recent books by Emerson. He says frankly: "It is psychology, not soil
or climate, that enables man to raise five times as many potatoes per
acre as the average in his own state";[7] or: "In selecting human
assistants such superficialities as education, as physical strength,
even antecedent morality, are not as important as the inner attitudes,
proclivities, character, which after all determine the man or
woman."[8] He also fully recognizes the necessity of securing as early
as possible the psychological essentials. He says: "The type for the
great newspaper is set up by linotype operators. Apprenticeship is
rigorously limited. Some operators can never get beyond the 2500-em
class, others with no more personal effort can set 5000 ems. Do the
employers test out applicants for apprenticeship so as to be sure to
secure boys who will develop into the 5000-em class? They do not: they
select applicants for any near reason except the fundamental important
one of innate fitness."[9] But all this points only to the existence
of the problem, and in reality gives not even a hint for its solution.
The theorists of scientific management seem to think that the most
subtle methods are indispensable for physical measurements, but for
psychological inquiry nothing but a kind of intuition is necessary.
Emerson tells how, for instance, "The competent specialist who has
supplemented natural gifts and good judgment by analysis and synthesis
can perceive attitudes and proclivities even in the very young, much
more readily in those semi-matured, and can with almost infallible
certainty point out, not only what work can be undertaken with fair
hope of success, but also what slight modification or addition and
diminution will more than double the personal power."[10] The true
psychological specialists surely ought to decline this flattering
confidence. Far from the "almost infallible certainty," they can
hardly expect even a moderate amount of success in such directions so
long as specific methods have not been elaborated, and so long as no
way has been shown to make experimental measurements by which such
mere guesswork can be replaced by scientific investigation.

The only modest effort to try a step in this direction toward the
psychological laboratory is recorded by Taylor,[11] who tells of Mr.
S.E. Thompson's work in a bicycle ball factory, where a hundred and
twenty girls were inspecting the balls. They had to place a row of
small polished steel balls on the back of the left hand and while they
were rolled over and over in the crease between two of the fingers
placed together, they were minutely examined in a strong light and the
defective balls were picked out with the aid of a magnet held in the
right hand. The work required the closest attention and concentration.
The girls were working ten and a half hours a day. Mr. Thompson soon
recognized that the quality most needed, beside endurance and
industry, was a quick power of perception accompanied by quick
responsive action. He knew that the psychological laboratory has
developed methods for a very exact measurement of the time needed to
react on an impression with the quickest possible movement; it is
called the reaction time, and is usually measured in thousandths of a
second. He therefore considered it advisable to measure the
reaction-time of the girls, and to eliminate from service all those
who showed a relatively long time between the stimulus and reaction.
This involved laying off many of the most intelligent, hardest-working,
and most trustworthy girls. Yet the effect was the possibility of
shortening the hours and of reducing more and more the number of
workers, with the final outcome that thirty-five girls did the work
formerly done by a hundred and twenty, and that the accuracy of the
work at the higher speed was two thirds greater than at the former
slow speed. This allowed almost a doubling of the wages of the girls
in spite of their shorter working-day, and at the same time a
considerable reduction in the cost of the work for the factory. This
excursion of an efficiency engineer into the psychological laboratory
remained, however; an entirely exceptional case. Moreover, such a
reaction-time measurement did not demand any special development of
new methods or any particular mental analysis, and this exception thus
confirms the rule that the followers of scientific management
principles have recognized the need of psychological inquiries, but
have not done anything worth mentioning to apply the results of really
scientific psychology. Hence the situation is the same as in the field
of vocational guidance. In both cases a vague longing for
psychological analysis and psychological measurement, but in both
cases so far everything has remained on the level of helpless
psychological dilettantism. It stands in striking contrast with the
scientific seriousness with which the economic questions are taken up
in the field of vocational guidance and the physical questions in the
field of scientific management. It is, therefore, evidently the duty
of the experimental psychologists themselves to examine the ground
from the point of view of the psychological laboratory.




VII

THE METHODS OF EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY


We now see clearly the psychotechnical problem. We have to analyze
definite economic tasks with reference to the mental qualities which
are necessary or desirable for them, and we have to find methods by
which these mental qualities can be tested. We must, indeed, insist on
it that the interests of commerce and industry can be helped only when
both sides, the vocational demands and the personal function, are
examined with equal scientific thoroughness. One aspect alone is
unsatisfactory. It would of course be possible to confine the
examination to the individual mental traits, and then theoretically to
determine for which economic tasks the presence of these qualities
would be useful and for which tasks their absence or their deficiency
would be fatal. Common sense may be sufficient to lead us a few steps
in that direction. For instance, if we find by psychological
examination that an individual is color-blind for red and green
sensations, we may at once conclude, without any real psychological
analysis of the vocations, that he would be unfit for the railroad
service or the naval service, in which red and green signals are of
importance. We may also decide at once that such a boy would be
useless for all artistic work in which the nuances of colors are of
consequence, or as a laborer in certain departments of a dyeing
establishment, and that such a color-blind girl would not do at a
dressmaker's or in a millinery store. But if we come to the question
whether such a color-blind individual may enter into the business of
gardening, in spite of the inability to distinguish the strawberries
in the bed or the red flowers among the green leaves, the first
necessity, after all, would be to find out how far the particular
demands of this vocation make the ability to discriminate color a
prerequisite, and how far psychical substitutions such as a
recognition of the forms and of differences in the light intensity,
may be sufficient for the practical task. Moreover, where not merely
such mental defects, but more subtly shaded variations within normal
limits are involved, it would be superficial, if only the mental
states were examined and not at the same time the mental requirements
of the vocations themselves. The vocation should rather remain the
starting-point. We must at first find out what demands on the mental
system are made by it and we must grade these demands in order to
recognize the more or less important ones, and, especially for the
important ones, we must then seek exact standards with experimental
methods.

Such an experimental investigation may proceed according to either of
two different principles. One way is to take the mental process which
is demanded by the industrial work as an undivided whole. In this case
we have to construct experimental conditions under which this total
activity can be performed in a gradual, measurable way. The psychical
part of the vocational work thus becomes schematized, and is simply
rendered experimentally on a reduced scale. The other way is to
resolve the mental process into its components and to test every
single elementary function in its isolated form. In this latter case
the examination has the advantage of having at its disposal all the
familiar methods of experimental psychology, while in the first case
for every special vocational situation perfectly new experimental
tests must be devised.

Whether the one or the other method is to be preferred must depend
upon the nature of the particular commercial or industrial calling,
and accordingly presupposes a careful analysis of the special
economical processes. It is, indeed, easy to recognize that in certain
industrial activities a series of psychical functions is in question
which all lie side by side and which do not fuse into one united
total process, however much they may influence one another. But for
many industrial tasks just this unity is the essential condition. The
testing of the mental elements would be in such cases as insufficient
as if we were to test a machine with reference to its parts only and
not with reference to its total united performance. Even in this
latter case this unified function does not represent the total
personality: it is always merely a segment of the whole mental life.
We may examine with psychological methods, for instance, the fitness
of an employee for a technical vocation and may test the particular
complex unified combination of attention, imagination and
intelligence, will and memory, which is essential for that special
kind of labor. We may be able to reconstruct the conditions so
completely that we would feel justified in predicting whether the
individual can fulfill that technical task or not; and yet we may
disregard entirely the question whether that man is honest or
dishonest, whether he is pacific or quarrelsome; in short, whether his
mental disposition makes him a desirable member of that industrial
concern under other aspects.

We best recognize the significance of these various methods by
selecting a few concrete cases as illustrations and analyzing them in
detail. But a word of warning may be given beforehand so as to avoid
misunderstandings. These examples do not stand here as reports of
completed investigations, the results of which ought to be accepted as
conclusive parts of the new psychotechnical science; they are not
presented as if the results were to be recommended like a well-tested
machine for practical purposes. Such really completed investigations
do not as yet exist in this field. All that can be offered is modest
pioneer work, and just these inquiries into the mental qualities and
their relations to the industrial vocations have attracted my
attention only very recently, and therefore certainly still demand
long continuations of the experiments in every direction. But we may
hope for satisfactory results the earlier, the more coöperators are
entering the field, and the more such researches are started in other
places and in other institutions. I therefore offer these early
reports at the first stage of my research merely as stimulations, so
as to demonstrate the possibilities.

As an illustration of the method of examining the mental process as a
whole, I propose to discuss the case of the motormen in the electric
railways. As an illustration of the other type, namely, of analyzing
the activity and testing the elementary functions, I shall discuss the
case of the employees in the telephone service. I select these two
functions, as both play a practically important rôle in the technique
of modern economic life and as in both occupations very large numbers
of individuals are engaged in the work.




VIII

EXPERIMENTS IN THE INTEREST OF ELECTRIC RAILWAY SERVICE


The problem of securing fit motormen for the electric railways was
brought to my attention from without. The accidents which occurred
through the fault, or at least not without the fault, of the motormen
in street railway transportation have always aroused disquietude and
even indignation in the public, and the street railway companies
suffered much from the many payments of indemnity imposed by the court
as they amounted to thirteen per cent of the gross earnings of some
companies. Last winter the American Association for Labor Legislation
called a meeting of vocational specialists to discuss the problem of
these accidents under various aspects. The street railways of various
cities were represented, and economic, physiological, and
psychological specialists took part in the general discussion. Much


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