How did the American Army used English Tests to Screen Soldiers’ Abilities?


“How did the American Army use English Tests to Screen Soldiers’ Abilities?


Looking back in the history of industrial and organization (I/O) psychology, World War I and testing within the Army shows the early beginning of this field. Robert Yerkes is given the most credit for developing the Army Alpha test along with others within the early years of the I/O field, and it was based off of intelligence tests created by Alfred Binet (Mulberger, 2014). The main idea was to determine the intellectual and emotional function of the soldiers since those with the highest intellect could in theory assure more victories.


Men were put into groups of various amounts and given tests to determine their intelligence level with the results then reviewed to understand the soldier’s capacity of serving, classify them for a job, and evaluate their potential for a leadership position. Since there were many in the Army who were illiterate or did not speak English, they took the Army Beta test. The additional functions of testing were to find those who were not mentally suited to serve, and to find those who possessed special talents to be used in specific jobs.


Walter Dill Scott assisted with classification and placement, and was instrumental in developing the duties and qualifications for more than five hundred jobs (Muchinsky & Culbertson, 2015). New recruits, existing recruits, and officer candidates were all tested to determine their abilities.

With the embracement of I/O psychology during wartime, the field was able to grow exponentially. Studies conducted during this time also lead to the publication of the Journal of Applied Psychology in 1917 (Muchinsky & Culbertson, 2015, p. 10). Early articles written made reference to the science of psychology being used in the realm of business. Theories of psychology were used during advertising and then used to solve vocational selection in ways such as the Army Alpha test. This early Army testing was considered to be the way to inventory the mental skills of soldiers and is the background of what is now called the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test, or ASVAB, and is currently used today for military testing for all branches of service and could be seen as the basis for all other types of occupational testing.”

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