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has frequently been applied in the experimental psychology of
individual differences and which I adjusted to our special needs. The
requirement is to cross out a particular letter in a connected text.
Every one of the thirty women in the classroom received the same first
page of a newspaper of that morning. I emphasize that it was a new
paper, as the newness of the content was to secure the desired
distraction of the attention. As soon as the signal was given, each
one of the girls had to cross out with a pencil every "a" in the text
for six minutes. After a certain time, a bell signal was given and
each then had to begin a new column. In this way we could find out,
first, how many letters were correctly crossed out in those six
minutes, secondly, how many letters were overlooked, and, thirdly, how
the recognition and the oversight were distributed in the various
parts of the text. In every one of these three directions strong
individual differences were indeed noticeable. Some persons crossed
out many, but also overlooked many, others overlooked hardly any of
the "a's," but proceeded very slowly so that the total number of the
crossed-out letters was small. Moreover, it was found that some at
first do poor work, but soon reach a point at which their attention
remains on a high level; others begin with a relatively high
achievement, but after a short time their attention flags, and the
number of crossed-out letters becomes smaller or the number of
unnoticed, overlooked letters increases. Fluctuations of attention,
deficiencies, and strong points can be discovered in much detail.

The third test which was tried with the whole class referred to the
intelligence of the individuals. Discussion of the question how to
test intelligence in general would quickly lead us into as yet
unsettled controversies. It is a chapter of the psychology of tests
which, especially in the service of pedagogy but to a certain degree
also in the service of medicine, has been more carefully elaborated
than any other. Often it has been contested whether we have any right
to speak of one general central intelligence factor, and whether this
apparently unified activity ought not to be resolved into a series of
mere elementary processes. The newer pedagogical investigations,
however, speak in favor of the view that besides all special
processes, or rather, above all of them, an ability must be recognized
which cannot be divided any further, and by which the individual
adjusts his knowledge, his experiences, and his dispositions to the
changing purposes of life. The grading of the pupils in a class
usually expresses this differentiation of the intelligence; and while
the differences of industry or of mere memory and similar secondary
features may sometimes interfere, it remains after all not difficult
for an observant teacher to grade the pupils of his class, whom he
knows well, according to their general intelligence. The psychological
experiments carried on in the schoolroom have demonstrated that this
ability can be tested by the measurement of some very simple mental
activities. The best method would be the one which would allow the
experimenter, on the basis of a single experiment, to grade the
individuals in the same order in which they appear in the record of
the teacher. Among the various proposed schemes for this purpose the
figures suggest that the most reliable one is the following method,
the results of which show the highest agreement between the rank order
based on the experiments and the rank order of the teachers.[14] The
experiment consists in reading to the pupils a long series of pairs of
words of which the two members of the pair always logically belong
together. Later, one word of each pair will be read to them and they
have to write down the word which belonged with it in the pair. This
is not a simple experiment on memory. The tests have shown that if
instead of logically connected words simply disconnected chance words
are offered and reproduced, no one can keep such a long series of
pairs in mind, while with the words which have related meaning, the
most intelligent pupils can master the whole series. The very
favorable results which this method had yielded in the classroom made
me decide to try it in this case too. I chose for an experiment 24
pairs of words from the sphere of experience of the girls to be
tested. Two further class experiments belonged rather to the periphery
of psychology. The exactitude of space-perception was measured by
demanding that each divide first the long and then the short edge of a
folio sheet into two equal halves by a pencil mark. And finally, to
measure the rapidity of movement, it was demanded that every one make
with a pencil on the paper zigzag movements of a particular size
during the ten seconds from one signal to another.

After these class experiments I turned to individual tests. First,
every girl had to sort a pack of 48 cards into 4 piles as quickly as
possible. The time was measured in fifths of a second. The following
experiment which referred to the accuracy of movement impulses
demanded that every one try to reach with the point of a pencil 3
different points on the table in the rhythm of metronome beats. On
each of these three places a sheet of paper was fixed with a fine
cross in the middle. The pencil should hit the crossing point, and the
marks on the paper indicated how far the movement had fallen short of
the goal. One of these movements demanded the full extension of the
arm and the other two had to be made with half-bent arm. I introduced
this last test because the hitting of the right holes in the
switchboard of the telephone office is of great importance. The last
individual experiment was an association test. I called six words like
"book," "house," "rain," and had them speak the first word which came
to their minds. The time was measured in fifths of a second only, as
subtler experiments, for which hundredths of a second would have to
be considered, were not needed.

In studying the results so far as the memory experiments were
concerned, we found that it would be useless to consider the figures
with more than 10 digits. We took the results only of those with 8,9,
and 10 digits. There were 54 possibilities of mistakes. The smallest
number of actual mistakes was 2, the largest, 29. In the experiment on
attention made with the crossing-out of letters, we found that the
smallest number of correctly marked letters was 107, the largest
number in the six minutes, 272; the smallest number of overlooked
letters was 2, the largest, 135; but this last case of abnormal
carelessness stood quite isolated. On the whole, the number of
overlooked letters fluctuated between 5 and 60. If both results, those
of the crossed-out and those of the overlooked letters, are brought
into relation, we find that the best results were a case of 236
letters marked, with only 2 overlooked, and one of 257 marked, with 4
overlooked. The very interesting details as to the various types of
attention which we see in the distribution of mistakes over the six
minutes were not taken into our final table. The word experiments by
which we tested the intelligence showed that no one was able to
reproduce more than 22 of the 24 words. The smallest number of words
remembered was 7. The mistakes in the perception of distances
fluctuated between 1 and 14 millimeters; the time for the sorting of
the 48 cards, between, 35 and 58 seconds; the association-time for the
6 associated words taken together was between 9 and 21 seconds. The
pointing experiments could not be made use of in this first series, as
it was found that quite a number of participants were unable to
perform the act with the rapidity demanded.

Several ways were open to make mathematical use of these results. I
preferred the simplest way. I calculated the grade of the girls for
each of these achievements. The same candidate who stood in the 7th
place in the memory experiment was in the 15th place with reference to
the number of letters marked, in the 3rd place with reference to the
letters overlooked, in the 21st place with reference to the number of
word pairs which she had grasped, in the 11th place with reference to
the exactitude of space-perception, in the 16th place with reference
to the association-time, and in the 6th place with reference to the
time of sorting. As soon as we had all these independent grades, we
calculated the average and in this way ultimately gained a common
order of grading. It is evident that this kind of calculation contains
accidental factors, especially as a consequence of the fact that we
give equal value to every one of these results. It might be better,
for instance, to attribute a higher value to the attention experiment
or to the intelligence experiment. This could be done by multiplying
the results of some of these grades by 2 or by 3, which would bring
the high or low grade of a girl for a particular function to stronger
influence in the final result. But in this first trial I contented
myself with the simplest uniform scheme in order to exclude all
arbitrariness, and therefore considered the mere average of all the
grades as the expression of the experimental result.

With this average rank list, we compared the practical results of the
telephone company after three months had passed. These three months
had been sufficient to secure at least a certain discrimination
between the best, the average, and the unfit. The result of this
comparison was on the whole satisfactory. First, the skeptical
telephone company had mixed with the class a number of women who had
been in the service for a long while and had even been selected as
teachers in the telephone school. I did not know, in figuring out the
results, which of the participants in the experiments these
particularly gifted outsiders were. If the psychological experiments
had brought the result that these individuals who stood so high in
the estimation of the telephone company ranked low in the laboratory
experiment, it would have reflected strongly on the reliability of the
laboratory method. The results showed, on the contrary, that these
women who had proved most able in practical service stood at the top
of our list. Correspondingly, those who stood the lowest in our
psychological rank list had in the mean time been found unfit in
practical service and had either left the company of their own accord
or else had been eliminated. The agreement, to be sure, was not a
perfect one. One of the list of women stood rather low in the
psychological list, while the office reported that so far she had done
fair work in the service, and two others to whom the psychological
laboratory gave a good testimonial were considered by the telephone
office as only fair.

But it is evident that certain disagreements would have occurred even
with a more ideal method, as on the one side no final achievement in
practical service can be given after only three months, and because on
the other side a large number of secondary factors may enter which
entirely overshadow the mere question of psychophysical fitness. Poor
health, for instance, may hinder even the most fit individual from
doing satisfactory work, and extreme industry and energetic will may
for a while lead even the unfit to fair achievement, which, to be
sure, is likely to be coupled with a dangerous exhaustion. The slight
disagreements between the psychological results and the practical
valuation, therefore, do not in the least speak against the
significance of such a method. On the other hand, I emphasize that
this first series meant only the beginning of the investigation, and
it can hardly be expected that at such a first approach the best and
most suitable methods would at once be hit upon. A continuation of the
work will surely lead to much better combinations of test experiments
and to better adjusted schemes. But it would be most desirable that
such studies be undertaken at various places according to various
schemes in order to come nearer to the solution of a problem which is
economically important to the whole public and to many thousands of
employees. As soon as methods are really perfected it would seem not
at all impossible that by a short experiment of a few minutes
thousands of applicants might be saved long months of study and
training which are completely wasted. For us here the detailed
analysis of this particular case did not mean a suggestion to use
to-day in the telephone offices of the country the special scheme
which we applied, but it stood only as a clear, simple illustration
of a method by which not the specific work itself is tested, but by
which the industrial work of the individual is resolved into a long
series of parallel functions each one of which is tested
independently. The experimental aid which the laboratory has to supply
in such cases is not a newly invented device, such as we needed in the
case of the motormen, but simply the methods well known as so-called
mental tests.

The experiments with such tests by which single mental functions are
measured approximately in short quick examinations, has been much
discussed in psychological circles. For a long while the thorough
scholars remained very reluctant to accept such an apparently
superficial scheme, when these tests were proposed especially for the
pedagogical interests of the schoolroom. It was a time in which the
scientific efforts were completely devoted to the general problems of
the human mind and in which individual differences were very little
considered. Moreover, the questions of applied psychology still seemed
so far distant that the true scholar instinctively took his standards
from the methods of purely theoretical research. Seen from such a
point of view, it could not be denied that the tests were not
sufficient to give us a complete scientific analysis of the
personality in its subtler structure. The theorists knew too well that
if the reactions, or associations, or memories, or tendencies of
attention, or emotions of a subject were measured really with that
scientific thoroughness which is the ideal of research, long months of
experiments would be needed, and little could be hoped for from tests
to be performed in half an hour. But this somewhat haughty reserve
which was quite justified twenty years ago has become obsolete and
would be meaningless to-day. On the one side the methods themselves
have been multiplied; for each mental act like memory, attention, and
so on, dozens of well-studied tests are at our disposal, which are
adjusted to the finest ramifications of the functions.[15] On the
other side the interest in individual differences and in applied
psychology has steadily grown, and through it an understanding for the
real meaning of the tests has been gained. Their value, indeed, lies
exclusively in their relation to the practical problems. Where
theoretical questions are to be answered and scientific studies
concerning the laws and variations of the mind are to be undertaken,
the long series of laboratory experiments carried on with patience and
devotion are indispensable and can never be replaced by the short-cut
methods of the tests. But where practical tasks of pedagogy or
jurisprudence or medicine, or especially of commerce and industry, are
before us, the method of tests ought to be sovereign. It can be
adapted to the special situations and can succeed perfectly, if the
task is to discover the outlines of the mental individuality for
particular practical work.

The only real difficulty of the method lies in the ease with which it
can be used. A device which presupposes complicated instruments deters
the layman and will be used only by those who are well trained.
Moreover, the amateur would not think of constructing and adapting
such apparatus himself. But when nothing is necessary but to use words
or numbers or syllables or pictures, or, as in those experiments which
we just described, newspapers and so on, any one feels justified in
applying the scheme or in replacing it by a new apparently better one
according to his caprice. The manifoldness of the proposed tests for
special functions, is therefore enormous to-day. What is needed now is
surely much more that order be brought into this chaos of
propositions, and that definite norms and standards be secured for
certain chief examinations, than that the number of variations simply
be increased.

The chief danger, moreover, lies in the fact that those who are not
accustomed to psychological laboratory research are easily misled.
They fancy that such an experiment can be carried out in a mere
mechanical way without careful study of all the conditions and
accompanying circumstances. Thereby a certain crudeness of procedure
may enter which is not at all suggested by the test method itself. The
psychological layman too seldom recognizes how many other psychical
functions may play a rôle in the result of the experiment beside the
one which is interesting him at that moment. The well-schooled
laboratory worker almost automatically gives consideration to all such
secondary circumstances. While his experiments may refer to the
process of memory, he will yet at the same time carefully consider the
particular situation as to the emotional setting of the subject, as to
his attention, as to his preceding experience, as to his intelligence,
as to his physiological condition, and many other factors which may
have indirect influence even on the simplest memory test. Hence the
real performance of the experiments ought to be undertaken only by
those who are thoroughly familiar and well trained in psychological
research. And they alone, moreover, can decide what particular form
such an experiment ought to take in a given practical situation. It
must be left to them, for instance, to judge in which cases the mental
function of economic importance ought to be tested after being
resolved into its components and in which it ought to be examined in
its characteristic unity.




XI

CONTRIBUTIONS FROM MEN OF AFFAIRS


While the psychologists have to perform the actual labor, the
representatives of practical life are much better able to indicate the
points at which the psychological levers ought to be applied. In the
past year I have sought contact with several hundred large concerns in
America which belong to many different industrial realms. My time did
not allow me personal observation in so many cases, but everywhere I
begged for information from the leading men. I asked in individual
letters for the particular psychological qualities which from the
standpoint of the management seemed essential for the various kinds of
labor in their establishments. I always inquired to what extent
consideration was given to such psychological points of view at the
appointment of applicants, and asked for material concerning the
question how far individuals who proved to be unfit for one kind of
labor showed fitness at other kinds of work. The replies which I
received from all sides varied from a few meaningless lines to long
documents, which in some cases were composed of detailed reports from
all the department chiefs of a particular concern. The common
fundamental turn was decidedly a feeling of strong interest in the
formulation of the question, which was practically new to all of them.
Whether the answer came from paper mills or machine shops, from
meat-packing houses or from breweries, from electrical or chemical
mills, from railroad or mining companies, from department stores or
from publishing houses, everywhere it was acknowledged that they had
given hardly any conscious attention to the real psychological
dispositions of their employees. They had of course noticed whether
their men were industrious or lazy, honest or dishonest, skillful or
clumsy, peaceful or quarrelsome people, but I had emphasized from the
start in all my letters that such points of view were not before my
mind. The mental qualities for which I asked were the psychological
functions of attention, memory, ideas, imagination, feeling, volition,
suggestibility, ability to learn, ability to discriminate, judgment,
space-sense, time-sense, and so on. It would lead too far here to
discuss why these two groups of characteristics indeed belong to two
different aspects of mental life, and why only the latter is strictly
psychological. The way in which the management is accustomed to look
on their men is the practical way of ordinary life, in which we try to
understand our neighbor by entering into the meaning of his mental
functions and by seeking to grasp what his aim is. But such an
interpretation of the other man's mind is not a psychological
analysis. It gives us the purposes of his inner life, but does not
show us its structure and its component parts. We can abstract from
interpreting and appreciating in order to describe the elements of the
mind which in themselves have no meaning and no value, but which are
the only important factors, if we are to determine psychologically
what we may expect from the individual.

While the replies to my letters showed that hardly any attention had
so far been given to such problems of objective psychology in the
industrial concerns, it became evident that the managers felt
distinctly that here a problem was touched which must be of highest
importance for economic success. From many different sides willingness
was shown to study the problem of employment under the psychological
aspect. As my material came mostly from very large establishments in
which labor of very many different kinds is carried on side by side,
of course I frequently received the assurance that whenever an
industrious energetic man is unsuccessful in one kind of work, a trial
is made with him in another department, and that by such shifting the
right place can often be found for him. Young people, to whom, in
spite of long trial and the best will, it seems impossible to supply
certain automatic machines, become excellent workers at much more
difficult labor in the same establishment. Women who are apparently
careless and inattentive when they have to distribute their attention
over a number of operations do high-class work when they are engaged
in a single activity; and in other cases the opposite is reported.

I may mention a few concrete chance illustrations. In a pencil factory
the women in one department have to grasp with one movement a dozen
pencils, no more and no less. Some learn this at once without effort,
and they earn high wages; others never can learn it in spite of
repeated trials. If those who fail in this department are transferred,
for instance, to the department where the gold-leaf is most carefully
to be applied to the pencils before stamping, very often they show
great fitness in spite of the extreme exactitude needed for this work.
To show how often activities which appear extremely similar may demand
different individuals, if the work is based on different psychical
functions, I may refer to a report from one of the largest
establishments in the country. In the accounting department a large
number of girls are occupied with looking over hundreds of thousands
of slips from which the weekly pay-list is compiled. Each slip
contains six figures and small groups of twenty slips have to be
looked through to see whether those six figures on each correspond.
With moistened forefinger they turn up the slips one by one in much
the same manner that a bank clerk counts money. A good sorter will
turn up the slips so rapidly that a bystander is unable to read a
single figure, and yet she will not overlook an error in thousands of
slips. After the slips are sorted, the operation of obtaining the
totals on each order number is performed with the aid of an adding
machine. The machine operator rolls up the slips of the pile with the
thumb of her left hand and transfers the amount to the proper keys of
the machine. It has been found that the most rapid and accurate girls
at sorting are not seldom useless on the machines. They press the
wrong, keys and make errors in copying the total from the machine
indicators to the file-card. On the other hand, some of the best
machine operators are very slow and inaccurate at the sorting table.
Girls have been found very poor at the work at which they were first
set, and very successful and efficient as soon as they had been
transferred from the one to the other.

Examples of this kind might be heaped up without end. But while the
very large establishments demonstrate by such reports only that they


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