The Politics of Psychological Testing

The Politics of Psychological Testing

In September 1954 Fortune magazine ran an article severely criticizing the use of psychological “personality tests” on business executives. It was not simply a run-of-the-mill attack upon science as science, or even upon pseudo-science as science. Instead, it was relatively temperate, and at times even penetrating in its analysis. But a small furor resulted because the article had the temerity to raise questions about the ethical propriety of personality testing, as well as about its validity and usefulness.

Of course, as long as psychological testing was restricted to workers and job applicants, Fortune had seen no cause for alarm. It was the extension of these tests to executives themselves which appeared disturbing. So disturbing, in fact, that a full-page treatment was reserved for a section entitled “How to Cheat on the Tests.” And there, for all executives to see, were a large number of the “correct answers” which clinical psychologists have jealously guarded for many years. It may not have been ethical, but apparently Fortune assumed that fire had to be fought with fire.

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