The Cattell Controversy

The Cattell Controversy: Race, Science, and Ideology

WILLIAM H. TUCKER
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/j.ctt1xcpmq
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  • Book Info
    The Cattell Controversy
    Book Description:

    Raymond Cattell, the father of personality trait measurement, was one of the most influential psychologists in the twentieth century, the author of fifty-six books, more than five hundred journal articles and book chapters, and some thirty standardized instruments for assessing personality and intelligence in a professional career that spanned almost seventy years. In August 1997, the American Psychological Association announced that Cattell had been selected the recipient of the American Psychological Foundation Gold Medal Award for Life Achievement in Psychological Science. Then, only two days before the scheduled ceremony, the APF abruptly postponed the presentation of the award due to concerns involving Cattell's views on racial segregation and eugenics._x000B__x000B_In addition to his mainstream research, Cattell had also authored a series of publications that posited evolutionary progress as the ultimate goal of human existence and argued that scientifically measurable criteria should be used to distinguish "successful" from "failing" racial groups so that the latter might be gradually "phased out" by non-violent methods such as regulation of birth control. Derived from science, Cattell's evolutionary philosophy was intended to be the basis of a full-blown religion. Although the earliest of these works had been published in the 1930s, near the end of an era in which eugenically based policies for human improvement were much more acceptable, Cattell promoted similar ideas well into the 1980s and '90s. _x000B__x000B_The Cattell Controversy describes Cattell's socio-religious beliefs in detail and analyzes their relationship to his scientific contributions. William H. Tucker discusses the controversy that arose within the field in response to the award's postponement, after which Cattell withdrew his name from consideration for the award but insisted that his position had been distorted by taking statements out of context. Reflecting on these events, Tucker concludes with a discussion of the complex question of whether and how a scientist's ideological views should ever be a relevant factor in determining the value of his or her contributions to the field.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09267-1
    Subjects: Psychology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. INTRODUCTION: “A FIERCE WIND”
    (pp. 1-20)

    Every college student who has taken a course in personality psychology has heard of Raymond Cattell, the father of trait measurement. Although his name is not particularly familiar to the public—not even to fairly well-read people unless they happen to have majored in psychology as undergraduates—Cattell’s enormous body of work has made major contributions to scientific thought about personality, human intelligence, and multivariate methodology. The author of fifty-six books, more than five hundred journal articles and book chapters, and some thirty standardized instruments for assessing personality and intelligence in a professional career that spanned two-thirds of a century...

  5. 1 FACTOR ANALYSIS AND ITS DISCONTENTS: CATTELLIAN SCIENCE
    (pp. 21-62)

    Harold Bloom, the well-known literary critic and staunch defender of the traditional canon, maintains that Shakespeare invented human personality. More than three centuries would pass from the Bard’s time, however, before science—more specifically, the newly created field concerned with human behavior—began systematic attempts to understand how his invention worked. Indeed, although psychology became a recognized science in the late nineteenth century, decades were still to elapse before researchers in the field turned their attention to the study of personality. Even as late as 1919 a speaker, commenting to an audience of social workers on the difficulty of finding...

  6. 2 IN THE NAME OF EVOLUTION: THE BEGINNING OF CATTELL’S MORAL SYSTEM
    (pp. 63-102)

    A classically educated scientist for whom there was no gap between the “two cultures,” Cattell was always intellectually curious and would never disparage knowledge for its own sake, but his scientific efforts were equally motivated by more practical, humanitarian concerns. Having observed in his youth both the heartrending sacrifices of the Great War and the wretchedness of life in the London slums, he was determined that his own professional accomplishments leave not only science but also society better than he found it.¹ Indeed, it was the possibility of achieving the latter goal as well as the former that had informed...

  7. 3 BEYONDISM AND THE NECESSITY FOR “GENTHANASIA”: CATTELLIAN MORALITY IN THE POSTWAR PERIOD
    (pp. 103-138)

    Despite Cattell’s intense interest in the subject of intellectual deterioration,The Fight for Our National Intelligence—a project conducted for a specific purpose under the auspices of the Eugenics Society—was nevertheless a diversion from the major focus of his research: human personality. The latter interest no less than the former was intended to serve his scientifically based ideology turned religious system. InPsychology and the Religious Quest,Cattell had stressed the importance of identifying those “extremely slight” differences in personality, “frequently subtle and unexpected,” that resulted in “one group mind [that is, racial group] being far more powerful, wise,...

  8. 4 THE CATTELL CONVENTION: THE CONTROVERSY OVER THE AWARD
    (pp. 139-166)

    Every August the American Psychological Association holds its annual convention, an opportunity for thousands of psychologists, professional and academic, to gather in formal and informal groups in order to present their own research, discuss issues of concern to both researchers and practitioners, and listen to invited talks by some of the most distinguished members of their profession. Two particularly noteworthy events at every convention are the keynote address, often delivered not by a psychologist but by someone prominent in public life, and the awards ceremony, at which members of the profession who have made outstanding accomplishments are honored by their...

  9. CONCLUSION: SCIENCE, AWARDS, AND IDEOLOGY
    (pp. 167-196)

    In response to the charges that Cattell’s work had encouraged racism, many of his supporters emphasized his warmth and personal decency; this was a good person, they emphasized, who had never displayed ethnic prejudice of any kind, responding to everyone as an individual. “In conversation,” recalled Richard Gorsuch—a clergyman as well as an APA fellow, who had been a civil rights activist at the same time that he apprenticed in Cattell’s lab—“I . . . never heard comments from Ray that I would interpret as racist.” The Web site created in Cattell’s memory quickly filled with reminiscences from...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 197-240)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 241-254)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 255-259)