Psychologists and Their Theories for Students. Editor: Kristine Krapp. Volume 1, Gale, 2005.
Anne Anastasi (1908-2001) became synonymous with psychometrics—the measurement of human characteristics—by the 1950s. As the long-touted “Test Guru,” Anastasi remained the key influence for anyone who had ever administered or taken an achievement, intelligence, aptitude, personality, or creativity test. Even at the time of her death in 2001, Anastasi’s 1954 textbook, Psychological Testing, remained the standard for students and professionals alike doing research in the design and analysis of psychological tests.
What made Anastasi unique among her contemporary research and professional community members was her keen interest that went beyond test results. She found a way to seek the underlying cause of behaviors, and to explain statistics in the simplest way possible. This gave her students a grasp of the complex principles that could prove an obstacle to understanding the crucial essence of evaluations. Anastasi’s approach was that of a generalist who paid attention not only to a psychological test’s results, but how results might be interpreted in regard to the influences of a person’s life history, intelligence, and other variables. When evaluating hospitalized psychiatric patients, for instance, Anastasi looked to the content of their drawings as well as the statistics that might have been gleaned from her testing. The psychometric measures that emerged meant little to Anastasi without looking at their psychological content, their relationship to other psychometric tests in consideration of other areas of psychology, and the social context of the testing.
Anastasi was revolutionary for her time. In 1937 when she published her first book, Differential Psychology, Individual and Group Differences in Behavior, what she offered the professional psychological community as well as the individual student cut through the complexity of the work that had already been done—work that was virtually incomprehensible to the average layperson. Her approach was presented as just one way of understanding behavior and was not intended to outline an entirely separate field of psychology. Her first paragraph noted that with differential psychology, it was “apparent that if we can explain satisfactorily why individuals react differently from each other, we shall understand why each individual reacts as [he] does.”
Anastasi found her way through the line of earlier experimental psychologists such as Charles Edward Spearman and Wilhelm Wundt. She established her own place in that tradition by expanding on the knowledge of early researchers in order to help her shape human study within the context of a broader human history. Her research and experimentation gave her the message that people were not mechanisms reacting, or not reacting, to certain stimulus. She understood that each individual was a product of a combination of factors that included genetic, hereditary, and environmental influences. These created an equally unique profile to be considered when creating or interpreting psychological tests.
Anastasi’s work has remained especially relevant to modern questions in education and psychological evaluations because of the intensity with which she penetrated the issue of cultural bias, or fairness in testing. Anastasi seriously questioned whether or not tests could be created without cultural bias. During the 1960s and 1970s, others argued that a test could be created that was totally fair to all individuals, crossing cultural lines. She insisted that no such test could be produced.
Anastasi consequently became renowned for her work with the interaction between biology and environment. She was a critical participant in the “nature versus nurture” arguments that significantly occupied the psychological scene of the later twentieth century. Because of her work in applied psychology, such fields as industrial and consumer psychology were given a boost in prestige at a time when few academic or theoretical psychologists dealt with the practical issues of human interaction.
Anne Anastasi was born of Sicilian heritage in New York City on December 19, 1908. Her parents were Anthony Anastasi, who worked for the New York City Board of Education, and Theresa Gaudiosi Anastasi. Her father died when Anastasi was only a year old, and the child and her mother became estranged from her father’s family. She would never get to know them. Instead, her grandmother and mother’s brother would form with Anastasi and her mother a unique family—her grandmother would be responsible for her home schooling during the first nine years of her life, and her uncle would become a father figure to her. Both he and her grandmother were educated and had graduated from college—but her uncle was not skilled in such a way to earn a living. That was left to Anastasi’s mother. After her husband’s death, she learned bookkeeping and founded her own piano company. When that company failed, she went to work at the Italian newspaper, Il Progresso, one of the largest foreign newspapers in the United States, as office manager, and supported the family through her years of hard work until her retirement.
Anastasi’s grandmother reportedly did not approve of the “boisterous children” she had witnessed in the nearby schoolyard. She deemed public education would be inappropriate for her granddaughter. Instead, the decision was made to school Anastasi at home with the benefit of her grandmother’s “interactive, dramatic, and glamorous” approach, according to the Anastasi biography published in the online series Women’s Intellectual Contribution to the Study of Mind & Society. The family eventually hired a local public school teacher as a private tutor for Anastasi. Because she was such an excellent student, the teacher persuaded the family to allow Anastasi to attend the neighborhood public school. At nine she entered the third grade. In only two months she was skipped to the fourth grade. Problems arose as she was seated in the back of the class and had a difficult time seeing the blackboard, and suffered the interference of a crowded and noisy classroom. She resumed her studies at home for a period when it was determined that she needed glasses. Anastasi then returned to school and entered the sixth grade. She stayed on to graduate from P.S. 33 in the Bronx, receiving the gold medal for excellence. That fall she entered Evander Childs High School but grew restless after only two months. The school was overcrowded, and Anastasi felt that she was not being properly challenged. At that time a family friend suggested she consider applying to college early. In anticipation of that, she attended Rhodes Preparatory School—a school primarily attended by adults who want to pursue a college degree—and was accepted at Barnard College within two years, entering at age 15.
Anastasi had an early interest in mathematics, having taught herself spherical trigonometry as a teenager. At Barnard her focus shifted to a major in psychology. Her mathematical skills would prove to be an asset in Anastasi’s statistical calculations for her psychological research. While she was still intending to major in math, the work of Charles Edward Spearman that changed her mind. Spearman (1863-1945), a renowned British psychologist, began his career as a student in Wilhelm Wundt’s (1832-1920) famed experimental laboratory in Germany at the end of the nineteenth century. He was a statistician known for his work on correlation coefficients, and the development of the “two-factor” theory of intelligence. According to Patricia Lovie and A. D. Lovie, writing a biographical profile of Spearman for the Biographical Dictionary of Psychology, that theory predicted a “common, or general, intellective function underlying every mental ability to some degree, as well as a function specific to the task in hand.” One of Anastasi’s professors, and later a colleague, Harry Hollingworth, influenced Anastasi once she was securely settled into psychology. She would later recall that it was a chance meeting in a pedestrian crossing zone a few years later during which Hollingworth would offer Anastasi an instructor position at Barnard, her first professional teaching position.
Anastasi graduated from Barnard at the age of 20, going on to complete her Ph.D. from Columbia University only two years later, in 1930. There she had studied under the supervision of H. E. Garrett. She stayed at Barnard as an instructor from 1930 until 1939. During that time, in 1937, she published her first major text, Differential Psychology. In his introduction to the volume, Hollingworth wrote that
No topic has greater significance for the organization of lives among human beings than that of the nature and basis of the individual differences among those human beings. Except for individual differences among us there would be no such distinctions as right and wrong; just and unjust; health and illness. There would be no laws, no courts, no systems of ethics, no politics, and no need of government. Individual differences are responsible for such institutions as education, for such episodes as wars, and probably, if the truth were known, for culture, for science, for the church, and for nearly everything else that is characteristically human.
What was so groundbreaking in Anastasi’s early work defining the importance of differential psychology was the very recognition of the human differences of which Hollingworth spoke. The field of experimental psychology was still relatively young in 1937. Anastasi was not yet 30 and had already begun to make her mark in the history of psychological evaluation. Hollingworth noted:
It was a special privilege to introduce such a volume in the form of the present book by one whose psychological studies I have observed from their beginning; by one whom I was earlier honored to know as a student in my own classes, and am now pleased to know as a colleague of long standing.
Anastasi left Barnard to join the psychology faculty at Queens College. She left there in 1947, having served as the chair of the department by the end of her tenure. When she moved to Fordham University, a Jesuit institution back in her home territory of the Bronx, first as an assistant professor, it would be her final move in academia. She remained at Fordham through to her retirement in 1979 as a full professor and having served from 1968-74 as chair of the department. Upon her retirement Anastasi was named professor emeritus.
While at Columbia, Anastasi met the man who would become her husband, industrial psychologist John Porter Foley, Jr. (1910-1994). Their marriage in 1933 would mark not only a domestic partnership, but a professional partnership as well. With Foley, Anastasi would broaden her own interests in applied psychology to match what he was discovering in his field. Only a year into their marriage, the marriage was severely tested. With the discovery that Anastasi was suffering from cervical cancer, the two faced the challenge brought by such a diagnosis. Radium treatments successfully treated the cancer with a prognosis for survival—but they also left her infertile. In an American Psychological Association (APA) tribute in the Summer 2002 issue, The Legacy of Anne Anastasi, Agnes N. O’Connell, who considered Anastasi a lifelong mentor, noted that when Anastasi would later recall this difficult time in her life, she said that the “response to misfortune can vary from self-pity, depression, and even suicide, to enhanced motivation and a determination to show the world that it can’t keep you down.”
With the Depression in full force and jobs scarce, Foley was forced to take a job in Washington while Anastasi held her position at Barnard. He would later accept a job with the Psychological Corporation in New York City. They stayed in New York throughout the rest of their marriage until Foley’s death in 1994.
Anastasi’s and Foley’s New York City home was a six-story townhouse on East 38th Street. Her mother Theresa lived with them until her death. Though she was unable to have her own children, a former student, Oliva J. Hooker, also speaking in the Anastasi tribute, noted that:
In teaching or mentoring, Anne had few peers. Every student was made to feel as if his/her career was of primary concern. Whenever a candidate needed an emergency meeting, she made time even if it meant having the student appear in the sanctity of her Manhattan home at 10 p.m.
In her daily life, Anastasi was noted for both her brilliance and her absentminded involvement with the more practical aspects of daily life. In her May 2001 obituary of Anastasi for the New York Times, Erica Goode related an incident told by Dr. Mary Procidano, then chair of the psychology department at Fordham. “Once, Dr. Procidano said, she heard a shriek coming from Dr. Anastasi’s office. Running to see what was wrong, she found Dr. Anastasi trying to pry a plug out of an electrical outlet by using a metal letter opener,” wrote Goode. When Dr. Procidano asked her if she got a shock, with the letter opener still in her hand, Anastasi replied, saying “How fascinating. How did you know it was a shock?”
Anastasi was known as a tireless friend, teacher, and colleague who in many ways was ahead of her time. Harold Takooshian wrote for the tribute that, “as early as 1937 her integrated model for cross-cultural psychology actually surpasses the Procrustean [a method named for Procrustes in Greek mythology, by which conformity was sought at any cost—including through ruthless or drastic means] models we are evolving today.” Hooker also noted that, “No one who had the privilege of working with Dr. Anastasi was ever bored. Her diverse interests and firm convictions defied easy prediction.” Jonathan Galente, whose father was Anastasi’s colleague and who would become a psychology professional himself, recalled a lifetime of experiencing her as friend and mentor. He had spent many hours with his father working right in her townhouse office, and enjoying her company with his family at holidays. According to Galente, Anastasi was “gracious, amusing, opinionated, frugal, hard-working, dedicated to the scientific psychology, totally unpredictable in some ways and highly predictable in others,” as well as a “master at telling stories.”
Professional achievement While maintaining her teaching career and family life, Anastasi continued her research, writing, and lectures. She became the third woman to be elected president of the APA—the first in 50 years at the time of her 1972 election. Procidano told Goode that, “Every psychologist has heard of Anastasi. She really defined the field.” Her interest in cultural diversity was evident throughout her many writings, extending throughout her professional life. From her first work in 1937, to her next major publication, Psychological Testing, first published in 1954—Anastasi was acutely aware of how group differences with variations in age, gender, family, anatomy, race, and ethnicity would affect the results of psychological tests. In her lifetime, Anastasi published more than 150 scholarly books, monographs, and articles. Dr. Robert Perloff, a distinguished service professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, according to Goode, said that Anastasi had “brought to the issue a balanced, deeply rational perspective and an insistence on solid science,” and a consideration of how both biology and environment as a crucial part of human character formation. In one series of studies, Anastasi examined creativity in elementary and high school students. Her research interests were widely varied. According to her friends and colleagues, Anastasi was in constant contemplation of human behavior, ever fascinated by it, and continually attempting to understand it better.
In addition to Differential Psychology and Psychological Testing, Anastasi’s other major publications included Fields of Applied Psychology, 1964; Individual Differences, 1965; Testing Problems in Perspective, 1966; and Gap Between Experimental and Psychometric Orientation, 1991.
Anastasi’s professional honors and awards included: the APA Distinguished Scientific Award, 1971; Recipient award for distinguished service to measurement from the Educational Testing Service (ETS), 1977; distinguished contribution to research, American Educational Research Association, 1983; APA E. L. Thorndike Medal, 1983; Gold Medal for lifetime achievement, American Psychological Foundation, 1984; National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest award for scientific achievement, 1987; and the James McKeen Cattell fellow of the American Psychological Society, 1993. In 1946 she was elected to the presidency of the Eastern Psychological Association. Later Anastasi would serve both the Psychonomic Society and the APA on the board of directors, in addition to her role as APA president. Among the schools that awarded Anastasi honorary doctorates were: La Salle University in Philadelphia; University of Windsor, Canada; Villanova University; Cedar Crest College; and Fordham. She was also a member of the honor societies of Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi. In the Spring 1987 issue of Psychotherapy in Private Practice, Eileen A. Gavin reported the findings of a study of the world’s most prominent women psychologists. Anastasi emerged first among 84 possible choices.
Anastasi died on May 4, 2001, in New York, at the age of 92. Friends and colleagues noted that the always-dignified, bright woman remained so even to her death. In the profile of Anastasi for the Biographical Dictionary of Psychology, Colin Cooper wrote that Anastasi, in her generalist approach, did not “become mesmerized by psychometric minutiae,” but paid attention instead to the “psychological content of psychometric measures, the link between psychometric tests and other areas of psychology, and the social context of mental testing.” He went on to say that:
Her books tell a compelling story of how properly constructed, well-validated, and psychologically well-founded mental tests can prove valuable in both theoretical and applied fields; provided that the underlying sociocultural, developmental, and cognitive processes are well understood. Through them she has made a real and substantial contribution to the science of psychometrics and to good testing practice.
Anastasi’s interest in experimental psychology expanded to include her research and work in the areas of differential psychology, psychological testing, and applied psychology. Her focus revolved around the questions of heredity versus environment, and the value of psychometrics. She spent her life of research examining and reexamining her experiments and their results. The outlines of her texts provide not only her students, but anyone reading her work, a careful investigation of her theories. The basic premise of her pursuit remained the same throughout every single step she took in unraveling human behavior. The premise was that human beings were different from each other, each unique for a variety of reasons. As she begins her very first book in 1937, Anastasi says that:
Man has always been aware of differences among his fellow-beings. He has, to be sure, entertained various theories, beliefs, or superstitions regarding the causes of such differences, and has interpreted them differently according to his own traditional background, but has at all times accepted the fact of their existence.
With this premise she gradually built an entire approach that helped determine testing methods for the next several generations of the human race. In any statistical analysis, report, or investigation, for Anastasi the key was in remembering that statistics had names, families, and a host of factors that influenced their behaviors.
Heredity and Environment: Original Theory
Main points On September 4, 1957, Anastasi presented a paper to the division of General Psychology of the APA, in her address as president of that division. She said that, “Two or three decades ago, the so-called heredity-environment question was the center of lively controversy. Today, on the other hand, many psychologists look upon it as a dead issue. It is now generally conceded that both hereditary and environmental factors enter into all behavior.” Her contention was that many of the “traditional investigations,” as she called them, had been inconclusive even after the controversy subsided. Whether either of those factors were considered together, or separately, or calculated for the percentages of what their contribution to the human behavior were determined to be, Anastasi found that much of the research was not successful. What she noted as a more viable hypothesis highlighted the demonstrated results of geneticists and psychologists, showing that the two factors were not an additive proposition—heredity plus environment equals character—but the interaction of the two components. For Anastasi, whose research had focused on individual differences and the question of heredity and environment from the beginning, neither was that explanation viable. “Small wonder,” she exclaimed, “that some psychologists regard the heredity-environment question as unworthy of further consideration!”
In her 1937 book, Anastasi had laid out the groundwork for understanding the role that both heredity and environment played in individual human differences. As previously noted, that concept was controversial. Through extensive research, for instance, she determined at that time, that it was “obvious that any attempt to identify psychological characteristics, and especially such a manifold and ill-defined phenomenon as ‘intelligence,’ with unit characters,” Anastasi suggested, was “entirely inconsistent with the concepts and data of genetics.” She criticized the early mental tests that attempted to quantify intelligence. For her and other experimental psychologists, the work being done in genetics was crucial in understanding that there were an infinite number of gene combinations possible when considering hereditary issues in human development—with the exception of identical twins—with ongoing studies into the natural genetic phenomenon into the twenty-first century. Anastasi sought to clear up two issues of heredity at the outset.
The two major misconceptions regarding the manifestations of heredity, as expressed by Anastasi in 1937, are:
- Inheritance is indicated only by resemblance to parents or immediate ancestors.
- Hereditary factors that influence structure mean a particular behavior will occur.
Explanation Anastasi explained the flaws of these two myths with scientific theories known at the time. With the first myth, Anastasi argued that the “germ plasm” was continuous, from generation to generation, and not dependent simply on the two parents. (Although the theory of germ plasm in not recognized today, Anastasi saw that people inherit qualities associated with extended family members.) With the second myth, Anastasi explained that though a certain inherited structure, or lack of one, might be the underlying factor for the development of certain abilities, such structures do not mean that the activity will occur simply because of such a structure’s presence or absence.
Examples As can be easily witnessed, for example, two parents might be very short yet produce a very tall child. Barring an accidental factor or disease that could cause such height, it is likely that the gene producing it emerged from a member or members of other generations. In the same vein, by virtue of height, that child might be better able to perform certain athletic or physical behaviors—but such activity will not necessarily occur simply because the height is present.
Anastasi took other factors into consideration. A serious scientist, she looked to experimental data to support her theories. She also addressed those issues that presented a possibility of variations. The four other factors that she examined were:
- Prenatal environment
- Experimentally produced variations in behavior
- Human children reared in abnormal environments
- Differences among social or occupational groups
Heredity and Environment: Theory Refined
Main points By 1957, Anastasi was continuing the particular exploration of the influence of heredity and environment and their interaction by suggesting that researchers had been asking the wrong questions. She noted:
The traditional questions about heredity and environment may be intrinsically unanswerable. Psychologists began by asking which type of factor, hereditary or environmental, is responsible for individual differences in a given trait. Later, they tried to discover How much of the variance was attributable to heredity and how much to environment. It is the primary contention of this paper that a more fruitful approach is to be found in the question, ‘How?’
Explanation Anastasi explained that her contemporary colleagues engaged in research had emerged with various techniques of answering the question of “How?” that offered much promise to the investigation. Some hereditary factors influencing behavior, she explained, were isolated from environmental factors in what they might produce. She used the example of such conditions as phenylpyruvic amentia and amaurotic idiocy—both considered at the time as irreversible birth defects. In the early twenty-first century, with medical advances that might eliminate those or other such genetic complications for mental capacity or direction, the issue would remain that with those genetically produced alterations, certain behaviors could not be influenced by environmental factors because of an innate lack of capability due to that socalled “defect.” But Anastasi used other examples to illustrate how hereditary issues can directly affect such issues as intelligence.
Examples Anastasi pointed out that in the situation of hereditary deafness, there was an initial possibility that intellectual growth might be stunted due to the interference that lack of hearing might cause with social interaction, language development, and schooling. This, of course, was 1957—still a time when advances in the education of the hearing-impaired lagged behind the development and change of thought that would come by the end of the century. As late as the early twentieth century, hearing- and sight-impaired people—due to their inability to communicate with people who had no such impairment—were sometimes branded as mentally insane or learning-challenged and relegated to insane asylums and other institutions. Anastasi did indicate that once adaptations occurred, such “retardation” would not be an issue.
Another example Anastasi offered was that of being susceptible to certain illnesses or diseases due to heredity. Combined with genetic susceptibility, environmental factors might indeed trigger an illness, with the possibility of various behavioral effects. As a more specific example, Anastasi explained that
Intellectually, the individual may be handicapped by his inability to attend school regularly. On the other hand, depending upon age of onset, home conditions, parental status, and similar factors, poor health may have the effect of concentrating the individual’s energies upon intellectual pursuits. The curtailment of participation in athletics and social functions may serve to strengthen interest in reading and other sedentary activities.
Other circumstances that surround the situation might further alter the influence that an illness might have on personality development. In severe cases, such as grave disfigurement of the face or other parts of the body, the physical affliction could also alter the social environment and isolate a person to the point of a psychiatric breakdown.
The case of the latter circumstance, or any inherited physical characteristics, most certainly affects human behavior—by the beginning of the twenty-first century, evidence exists that a woman who is deemed beautiful is more likely to be assisted in a roadside emergency than one who is considered unattractive. Given the possible dangerous consequences facing a woman in such a situation—from other humans, animals, or daunting weather conditions—it is possible that even the genetic or hereditary component of physical attractiveness of a person could affect his or her behavior as it reacts to positive or negative response to the individual.
Indirect relationship The important distinction in this discussion for Anastasi was the reminder that any link of heredity on behavior was always an indirect one. No psychological trait, she explained, was ever inherited. “All we can ever say directly from behavioral observations is that a given trait shows evidence of being influenced by certain ‘inheritable unknowns’,” Anastasi reminded her audience. “Psychological traits are related to genes by highly indirect and devious routes,” she emphasized. Geneticists and psychologists both recognize the wide range of possible variants when examining the compound of factors linking heredity, environment, and behavior.
Main points Environmental variations can be organic or behavioral. Of those that are classified as organic, the environmental factors that are indicated would be those that produce actual organic effects that might consequently influence behavior. Those considered behavioral would indicate that they serve as a direct stimulus for one or more particular psychological reactions.
Explanation Environmental influences that are organic bear a similarity to hereditary factors. They can be set along a continuum of how much they directly or indirectly affect behavior. Those that are behavioral are considered to have a direct influence on behavior; those that are organic are considered indirect. A different sort of continuum measure the breadth of indirect influences.
Examples As an example of an organic cause indirectly affecting behavior, Anastasi offered the actual example of the stereotypical young female secretary, usually unnoticed due to her “mousy brown hair,” who becomes a glamorous blonde through the use of culturally available techniques. The possibility that others would have a different reaction to her, and that her own self-concept would change as a result of that social response, is very likely. The broader indirect result of such a response could lead to a different social poise, or perhaps even a drop in her clerical accuracy should the attention she receives cause an interference to her job.
Anastasi used the example of social class membership as a behavioral environmental factor. “Its influence upon behavior development,” she determined, “may operate through many channels.” Social class can direct intellectual pursuits, for example, depending on the level of education and experience that has been provided by individual families or communities. Such influence could go even deeper as it affects consequent factors as the extent of formal schooling their financial status might afford, access to cultural diversions or lessons, and even access to medical care.
Another example of a behavioral environmental influence is language, especially in the case of bilingualism, or multilingualism. An adult who moves to a country where the natives speak a different language could experience communication difficulties until some proficiency in the new language is gained. Anastasi believed such difficulties did not have a longlasting effect, and any problems were easily overcome. She did contend that bilingualism in children had in some cases had a negative effect on learning or communication. With scholastic problems brought on by language issues, other behavior brought on from a feeling of frustration might lead further to academic discouragement or a dislike of school. She cited the example of a group of Puerto Rican children in New York City. As Anastasi explained that, she noted:
In the case of certain groups, moreover, the child’s foreign language background may be perceived by himself and his associates as a symbol of minority group status and may thereby augment any emotional maladjustment arising from such status.
The marked difference of an example from the early twenty-first century could be that of a young minority who might be well-spoken with no dialect. The youngster wants to fit in, though, and deliberately alters language to include the more acceptable slang or grammar of the desirable group.
Anastasi provided an elaboration of the issue following these examples, saying, “There is clearly a need for identifying explicitly the etiological (meaning the cause assigned) mechanism whereby any given hereditary or environmental condition ultimately leads to a behavioral characteristic—in other words, the ‘how’ of heredity and environment.”
Main points The methodological approaches to understanding the “how” of the hereditary-environment question, could be counted at seven, according to Anastasi. They were:
- Extension of selective breeding investigations to permit the identification of specific hereditary conditions underlying the observed behavioral differences
- Exploration of possible relationships between behavioral characteristics and physiological variables which may in turn be traceable to hereditary factors
- Prenatal environmental factors
- Investigation of the influence of early experience on the eventual behavioral characteristics of animals
- Comparative investigation of child-rearing practices in different cultures and subcultures
- Research on somatopsychological relationships—the way physical traits might influence behavior
- Adaptation of traditional twin studies
Explanation: Selective breeding Anastasi discussed the background for her advocacy of the extension of selective breeding investigations recalling that early selective breeding investigations indicated that the “maze learning ability” was inherited. What researchers would eventually learn from such experimentation was not that the actual ability had been inherited, but that the ability was being transmitted from genes. In 1957, Anastasi was years ahead of her time in believing that the actual chemical properties of the genes might ultimately explain such specific behavioral characteristics. What in fact was key to Anastasi’s entire premise was the careful delineation of research methods, and questions that would cover thoroughly the questions of heredity and environment.
Examples Anastasi cited ongoing research that was then current. L.V. Searle, following the work of R.C. Tryon in determining the ability of rats to undergo mazes, used rats with the strains of maze-bright and maze-dull that Tryon had developed. He was able to demonstrate that the “two strains differed in a number of emotional and motivational factors,” according to Anastasi, “rather than in ability.” That experiment represented the next step in determining the link between maze learning and genes.
Explanation: Physiological variables Anastasi’s second proposed approach in the discussion was that of discerning relationships between behavioral characteristics and physiological variables that could be traced to hereditary factors. Anastasi said that certain research—that on EEG, autonomic balance, metabolic processes, and biochemical factors—was an illustration of that approach.
Examples The example that Anastasi provided was that of the research that traced the metabolic disorder phenylpyruvic amentia. This research process uncovered the causal chain from the defective gene, through metabolic disorder and the resulting cerebral malfunction, to the feeblemindedness and other symptoms.
Explanation: Prenatal environmental factors Based on the research available, Anastasi believed that prenatal environment factors could show that a link existed between socioeconomic factors, complications of pregnancy, and poor nutrition to the psychological disorders of the offspring.
Examples As an example, Anastasi cited research that had been conducted among samples of whites and blacks in Baltimore. The research showed that prenatal and infancy disorders were directly related to the level of mental defects and psychiatric disorders. Another study focused on prenatal nutrition that was observed through monitoring pregnant women in low-income groups whose diets were otherwise seriously lacking, but were given supplements through pregnancy and nursing. This control group was compared with a similar group given placebos. The control group that received the supplements produced offspring that showed significantly higher intelligence quotient ratings than the group receiving placebos.
Explanation: Early perceptual experiences Animal studies of the time showed the crucial link of early perceptual experiences on later performance. Anastasi believed that some of these observations were also key to understanding human behavior.
Examples Some tests were more traditional in tying an individual’s maturity level and learning to behavior development. Other tests were designed to determine particular psychoanalytic theories based on the discussion of experiences in infancy. German biologist Konrad Lorenz’s experiments with birds were also cited. He had studied early social stimulation of birds, with a particular view to “imprinting”—the way that behavior was learned by the young observing the mother, in many cases.
Explanation: Child-rearing practices The research of child-rearing practices offered a way to determine their relationship to personality development in children from various cultures.
Example A study by Judith R. Williams and R.B. Scott conducted in 1953 observed the relationship between socioeconomic level, permissiveness, and motor development among black children. Esther Milner conducted a study of the relationships between reading readiness in grade one school children and the patterns of parent-child interaction. Milner found that lower-income children lacked two advantages that middle-class children did not. The first factor was described as “a warm positive family atmosphere or adult relationship pattern” already recognized as a motivational prerequisite. The other was involved the opportunity to verbally interact with adults in the family.
Explanation: Somatopsychological relationships Anastasi was unable to cite specific research available at the time on the influence of the body on psychological development (somatopsychological), but suggested that there could be many ways in which physical traits, both hereditary and environmental, might influence behavior.
Explanation: Twin studies Twin studies have continued to offer ever-evolving understanding of certain psychological traits in the hereditary versus environment discussion. Anastasi was an advocate of pursuing such investigations in order to scientifically determine what the results might indicate about all human behavior, and not simply that of twins.
Examples Some of the most interesting twin studies conducted since Anastasi’s early work have involved those identical twins separated at birth and raised in very different environments. These twins frequently have similar psychological or personality traits. She cited F. J. Kallmann’s research, Heredity in Health and Mental Disorder: Principles of psychiatric genetics in the light of comparative twin studies. Kallmann found that the hereditary factor in schizophrenia was identical between dizygotic twins (fraternal twins born from two separate eggs, as opposed to identical twins) and other siblings. Earlier findings of other research had shown that intelligence test scores varied less with dizygotic twins than they did with other siblings.
Anastasi concluded the summary of this particular address by reminding her audience that
Such approaches are extremely varied with regard to subjects employed, nature of psychological functions studied, and specific experimental procedures allowed. But it is just such heterogeneity of methodology that is demanded by the wide diversity of ways in which heredity and environmental factors interact in behavior development.
Main points Anastasi spent her career defining psychometrics. In a 1991 article for the Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences, “The Gap Between Experimental and Psychometric Orientations,” she began by saying that
One of the inevitable consequences of the rapid growth of psychology is an increasing specialization in the training and functioning of psychologists. Specialization is obviously needed if one is to attain sufficient depth of knowledge and expertise to make an effective contribution to either research or practice. At the same time, specialization creates hazards which are becoming increasingly apparent in psychology. There is the likelihood of losing contact with neighboring specialties that may be relevant to one’s work. And there is the danger that the methodological focus becomes too circumscribed to provide an adequate picture of so complex a phenomenon as human behavior. As a result, one’s data may be incomplete and one’s conclusions incorrect.
Anastasi had expressed a concern for years that the gap was widening between psychometric and experimental orientations in research. The main issue was that scientists were becoming so involved in the development of the test and the techniques, that the reason behind such tests—the behavior they were supposed to be measuring—had gotten lost.
Explanation Psychometrics can be defined as the design and analysis of research, resulting in the measurement of human characteristics. Anastasi further explained that psychometrics included psychological testing and statistical analysis, encompassing the “nature and sources” of psychological differences, as in differential psychology. Psychometrics represents the statistics of the variability of human behavior—with variability providing the essence of investigation. Such methodology was developed in order to find a place for the variability discovered in research and experiment. When any data regarding human behavior is analyzed (the wide variations of people exhibiting that behavior as well as the widely varied specific response indicators), a valid interpretation can come only through factoring in all of the variables. Random variability in response can reflect the variables that can alter individual performance on tests over short periods of time. That would likely include changes in physical and psychological status, as well as external changes.
Anastasi pointed out that experimental psychology initially ignored any forms of random variability. The variations were considered “errors” and were seen as restricting how the general findings might be used. According to her, nineteenth-century psychologists in the early years of experimentation were simply looking for general cases of human behavior, with no focus on real, individual human behavior. As a consequence, terminology that was indicated as “standard error,” or “error variance,” and other such terms, were derived from that disposition. Psychometricians see only variance, not error, because all facts of human behavior are deemed as accountable and crucial to any investigation. Such variation that is gained by sampling errors and errors of measurement is not the only matter with which psychometrics is concerned. The standard deviation (a measure of variability) of the whole distribution of statistics is inextricably linked to the analysis of findings—as well as the “standard error.”
Examples One example Anastasi gave was that of seeking the range of individual variation that was appropriate to consider for a particular purpose. Using the standard deviation to cover the middle 95% of the group is one way to analyze the varition. Another is to look at a wider, or perhaps, narrower range. Another example is to look at the data provided by the correlation coefficient, a measure a variation in more than one variable. This is because the relation between any two variables can vary between any two people observed. “If the same relation between two variables held for all persons, such that each person occupied the same relative position in both variables, the correlation between the two variables would be +1.00 and we would not need to compute it,” Anastasi explained. But in fact one person might be high in both variables, another person high in one and only mediocre in another, with still a third person offering another variation. If only one test was given, a whole picture would not be possible either of the individual, or of how that individual compared with a group.
Explanation In further understanding the nature of psychometrics and how it can merge with experimental methodology, Anastasi offered a story that, she noted, was a common occurrence in the lives of many young researchers:
The investigator in the story has been busy collecting an extensive body of data in the effort to test one or more hypotheses. Faced with an overabundance of numerical data, the investigator decides to consult a well-known statistician for expert advice on how to analyze the data. The statistician tried to do the best that he or she can to help, but with a sad shake of the head remarks, ‘I could have been of real help if you had contacted me before you gathered your data.’ This, of course, is the question of experimental design, which is closely linked to statistical considerations.
Examples There are three key examples of the link between statistical and experimental methodology.
The three examples as outlined by Anastasi are:
- Analysis of variance
- Structural equation modeling
- Factor analysis
An analysis of variance is a concept also known as ANOVA. R.A. Fisher was chief statistician at the Rothamsted Experimental Station, a British agricultural research center, when he introduced ANOVA. It has been used in experimental psychology and statistical methodology. Experimental design constituted an important premise in Fisher’s treatment of ANOVA. When it was introduced to psychological researchers and adopted by them for their experimental use, it was primarily implemented to assign individuals to a group so that the effects of specific variables on them could be identified. The typical simple use of this theory is the experimental-control groups method of research. What it offered, more importantly, was to allow simultaneous study of the effects of several independent variables. An example of that is to use both sex and socioeconomic factors when analyzing the results of a mechanical aptitude test. Variables can also be manipulated within the experiment.
Structural equation modeling was an innovation from the last decades of the twentieth century. This method used what is known as regression equations to predict the dependent from the independent variables in cross-lagged correlation—for instance, when an attempt to measure the influence of an individual’s attitude and ability on a math test in comparison to performance at various points in time. In structural equation modeling, all the intercorrelations among the variables are used in the measurement, with both measurement and sampling errors taken into account. Provision is made to calculate any possible additional or unmeasured causal variables, as well. When calculating a student’s attitude toward math, for instance, several of the indicators would be used to define a “construct” of the individual’s attitude toward math, useful in predicting future achievement in the subject. A construct represents a person’s entire relationship to a subject that involves a complexity of variables.
Using factor analysis in research to determine the organization of human behavior comprises the third example of the merging of statistical and psychometric approaches. In factor analysis, the principal object of the technique is the simplification of data. This is accomplished by reducing the number of necessary variables, or dimensions. Anastasi explained that if, for instance, five factors were deemed sufficient to account for all of the common variance in a battery of 20 tests, five scores could be substituted for the original 20 in most cases without any loss of crucial information. By the end of the twentieth century, computers served the function necessary in such analysis—but Anastasi emphasized the importance of understanding the background of the analysis.
Anastasi’s work in differential psychology, applied psychology, psychometrics, and psychological testing was carried through completion by a common thread: her desire for true scientific investigation, with its thorough and exhaustive approach, in uncovering both common and not-so-common human behavior. The testing was not an end in itself. Anastasi sought to make understanding human beings and the applying that understanding less complicated. She concluded her thoughts for the journal article in 1991 by saying that:
When dealing with human behavior, in any form and from any angle, you will encounter variability—extensive and pervasive variability. If you ignore this variability, it will come back to haunt you in the form of incorrect conclusions in basic research and wrong decisions in applied research and practice. Equally serious are the consequences of becoming totally immersed in the statistics of variability, while ignoring the psychological content and context of the behavior itself. The experimental and psychometric approaches are not only intrinsically compatible but also mutually interdependent. Each depends upon the other for effective functioning in research design, in data analysis, and in the interpretation of results.
Anastasi and her work represented only the third generation of experimental psychology since Wilhelm Wundt opened his laboratory in Germany in 1879. His work paved the way for others, including James Cattell and William James, to create all that would be embodied in modern psychological practice and theory. It was only 50 years after Wundt that Anastasi began her own professional career—inspired by Charles Spearman, and based still on what he and those other nineteenth-century psychologist pioneers had begun to organize. The field was still foreign to all but a very particularly educated population. Even to educated classicists and philosophers, the language of psychology still represented anything but scientific validity. Only slowly was psychology merged into the study of human history as a valid academic pursuit.
Anastasi was born into a family of Sicilian immigrants in New York City in 1908. It was a time of class struggles among newly arrived immigrants to the United States and a culture that was a not unlike the blending of the psychological variables she would utilize to analyze human behavior throughout her life. The prejudice against “non-Americans” represented an obstacle to many immigrant families as they struggled to survive economically and work toward a better life through education. Many stereotypes of these immigrants designated them as mentally less fit or capable than their American counterparts. Ironically, many of the prejudices would be battled with the triumph of scientific evidence that Anastasi would help support against those stereotypes. The country was still young, really—a little over 125 years old—compared with the ancient culture of her own ancestors.
As she began her career, the horrors of the First World War were visible throughout the United States and Europe, not only in the loss of lives and the destruction of countryside, but in the scarred faces and bodies of soldiers who were the first to experience modern bombings and chemical attacks. Faces were burned beyond recognition, yet new medicinal techniques saved the soldiers who might have died in previous wars. These soldiers were left with lives that created new forms of recognized psychological trauma. Europe, especially Germany, was economically ravaged.
While Anastasi was preparing her dissertation, Wall Street experienced the collapse of the stock market on October 29, 1929. The world was plunged into a depression that would last nearly a decade. People struggled with their identities as they were often forced into lives they never would have expected to endure. Farmers in the Midwest would experience the drought of the “dust bowl” and head to California in record numbers, forming a whole new kind of immigration. Even Anastasi and her husband would be forced to live lives between two cities in order to support themselves; her husband could find work only in Washington while she had to be in New York. Theirs was an experience repeated by thousands of others. In fact, families were torn apart when fathers and husbands left their homes to find work in massive numbers, creating a whole new class of vagabonds. They hopped on trains and walked miles simply to earn enough money for food, often just enough for a day. What was going on in the academic enclaves was not divorced from what was going on in the country outside the university walls.
The new discipline of psychology found a new role in those early years as both observer and sometimes crusader, helping to form a new consciousness of what it meant to be human. Just as the Great Depression reached a conclusion, the world was dragged into another war that would have even more dire consequences for the previously provincial people of all countries—and particularly of the United States. Farm boys would travel not only out of state for the first time, but out of the country to face the tragedy of war in a foreign landscape. Jewish people and others who had escaped to the United States and elsewhere from the horrors of Nazi Germany were themselves creating a new brand of American. Many educated and brilliant people were a part of this group, who would also begin to redefine many American universities with their own background of research and experience.
Anastasi published her first major work in 1937, when the refugees from Europe were entering the United States because a madman had an idea of developing a “perfect” race of people. In the APA tribute to Anastasi, Fordham colleague Takooshian noted the greater significance of Anastasi in view of the Nazi rise to power. He commented that:
At precisely the time when Nazi and continental researchers were vigorously developing a race science to emphasize group differences based on genetic factors, Anne’s 894-page tome casually dismissed such efforts in a few crisp words: “The array of evidence in support of this [Aryan supremacy] is incomplete and one-sided at its best and fantastic and mythical at its worst.”
When Anastasi published her first edition of Psychological Testing in 1954, yet another phenomenon was changing the country. The post-World War II “baby boom” generation was just eight years into its 18-year reign. Suburbs were being developed at record levels to accommodate a growing population—and with them, public education was expanded to a level before unseen. Returning GIs had also taken advantage of the GI Bill for education in record numbers, and the number of college graduates in America was growing as well. Parents who had not been able to graduate from high school because of the hard years of the Depression were now preparing their own children for higher education, beginning as early as kindergarten. American education and consequently American labor were becoming the “equalizers.” Old class structures were revised, and a new middle class was defined.
Prosperity also meant that greater attention could be given to both medical and psychological problems. Medications such as penicillin meant that adults and their children were not as likely to succumb to infections. Life expectancies rose as a consequence of these new medications, along with less physically demanding lifestyles for the average family. Although old racial and cultural prejudices might have been slow to subside, there was still a promise of a modern life that was coming with many technological miracles—and some new anxieties. Psychologists became standard fixtures on the landscape of America. Whether it was study after study of the impact of the baby boomers on the future, or simply determining what could be done to increase children’s ability to learn, psychology had gained prominence that would never again be questioned.
Anastasi’s life and legacy was embroiled in a time of great change in the social and physical sciences. Her contribution to those changes was represented by the position she chose to take professionally. She not only served as vital observer and analyst. Anastasi was a pioneer who helped in the move toward greater understanding of human behavior, embracing the good news that this understanding would bring for society as a whole.
Anastasi was rather quiet in her revolution of ideas. She was one of many psychologists teaching and making discoveries at roughly the same time through their research. She had been inspired by her love of mathematics, and from the career of Charles Edward Spearman, whose hard work in experimental psychology and psychometrics brought about the opening of the first psychological research center in Britain. James McKeen Cattell began his work defining differential psychology in the early twentieth century. This experimental psychologist who met Francis Galton after leaving Wundt in Leipzig was inspired by Galton’s work on individual differences. Anastasi is a descendent of those who first defined differential psychology.
The simple fact that Anastasi’s texts remain the standard for students of psychological testing, and that all of her books have gone into several revised editions, shows that her work has achieved critical success. She was in a different situation than some other psychologists might have been. Anastasi was a tenacious and determined researcher while also being a devoted and gifted teacher. She functioned as a messenger as well, relating and responding to as much of the work of her contemporary researchers as possible. Her own ideas were continually evolving. As research became available that might have changed what she had deemed true, Anastasi let valid scientific evidence change her perspective.
In his introduction to Differential Psychology, Hollingworth called attention to the necessity of the work she was doing. He wrote that the tale of human diversity needed “constantly to be rewritten.” Anastasi was doing that.
Especially it needs now to be written by one who can hold prejudice at a minimum, who is equipped with technical tools and native endowment to know and to expose sources of error, to evaluate reported data in terms of the recent refinements of statistical and mathematical method, and who has, by virtue of original contributions to this field, demonstrated a competence therein and achieved contemporary authority.
Hollingworth had more or less hand-picked his former student for her first teaching position at Barnard College of Columbia University. Although he was also her friend, he was a professional who viewed Anastasi with careful and critical consideration regarding what she brought and would continue to bring to the field of differential psychology.
What is evident in the discussion of Anastasi’s work is the praise she received, especially following her death. John Hogan, of St. John’s University, recalled in his tribute that, “For Anastasi, there was nothing mysterious about psychological tests. They were simply tools, and their effectiveness depended on the skill and integrity of the examiner.” Anastasi herself had objections to the way some testing was done, and the way results might have been interpreted. According to Takooshian, “Far more than other psychometricians, Anne consistently emphasized the limitation of psychological tests, their environmental and cultural contexts, and the value of qualitative information.”
Anastasi was still in her 20s when she entered into a debate with L.L. Thurstone (1887-1955) on the subject of personality traits. The first president of the Psychometric Society, Thurstone was a well-known psychometrician and psychologist, and almost 50 at the time. He was educated as an electrical engineer and had been offered a job with Thomas Edison in developing his motion picture techniques. However, psychology interested him enough to abandon engineering and establish himself in a whole new career. He rejected the stimulus-centered approach in experimental psychology that many others believed was the way to conduct research. He is best known for his multiple factors theory, and his theory of the seven elements that best examine intelligence. Those included verbal comprehension, word fluency, number facility, spatial visualization, associative memory, perceptual speed, and reasoning.
Anastasi’s Psychological Testing was not only received well in this country in its many revised editions, but was translated around the world. In 1954, the middle of the Cold War, its translation into Russian for study there was highly unusual for such textbooks. One of her colleagues remarked that it was even translated in Persia (now Iraq)—and that its translator was executed afterwards. The fact that the text was considered by academic colleagues as the best text for 47 years was another remarkable testimony of how well she was received among her peers.
At a time when few women gained prominence or even received much attention in many professional areas, Anastasi was recognized as an expert. “She was an enormously central figure in the whole area of the measurement of human abilities,” offered Eva Baker, director of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) Center for the Study of Evaluation. Baker also told Elaine Woo of the Los Angeles Times on Anastasi’s death, that, “Her contribution is all the more astounding given that she was working in a field that is quantitatively oriented and not well-populated by women.” Woo also wrote that, “Her success was owed, in part, to her ability to write lucidly about complex topics. Colleagues said her forthright approach to sensitive issues also contributed to her authority in the testing world.”
The field of applied psychology was an area where Anastasi ventured when few in her academic circle would do so. At the time she first published Fields of Applied Psychology in 1964, the idea that psychology could have an impact on the diverse worlds of consumer advertising, the industrial work place, and perhaps international affairs was still held in suspicion by professionals and laypeople alike. As long as it struggled in its identity as a science, all of psychology was sometimes held apart from “real medicine” or “real science.” That would change. Due in large part to people such as Anastasi and her husband, America and the rest of the world was on the verge of a big step into a whole new frontier. In her preface, Anastasi explained that, “Although applied psychology has undergone explosive development during and since World War II, it did not originate at that time.” She simply stated her reason for producing the book.
The primary aim of this book is to bring together what the well-educated person needs to know about the professional activities of psychologists in business, industry, advertising and marketing, education, clinical practice, law, government, and the military services. The book does not presume to give advice on how to treat neuroses, bring up children, handle employees, or live one’s life. It seeks rather to give a comprehensive view of the work of applied psychologists, that is, all psychologists other than those engaged primarily in teaching or basic research within an academic setting. Although directed principally to the college student, the book is also appropriate for beginning graduate students in psychology, as well as for students in schools of business and possibly in schools of law and medicine. It should likewise be of special interest to personnel workers, advertisers, and businessmen in general who want an overview of what psychology has to offer in practical contexts.
In the era before language changed to reflect a modern society, Anastasi’s use of the word, “businessmen” in that original edition is worth noting. This book was written in the early days of what would come to be known as the “sexual revolution,” a few years away from the publication of MS magazine in the early 1970s, when a woman’s role in the professional world became more pronounced. Up to that time in America, few women held the positions that men held in business, government, or higher posts in academia. Anastasi held to a quiet and conservative pace in her work, slowly introducing and reflecting the concepts that were emerging onto the social context of a latter twentieth-century perspective. Anastasi represented a new era in psychology. Leaders within the APA attempted to simplify its divisions, leading away from clearly defined specialties. By 1964 such distinctions were being abandoned.
Anastasi was known for her insight and her tireless pursuit in scientific research. She is not only remembered but revered as the person who organized crucial data and kept pace with the constant alterations that had to be made as psychological testing grew beyond anyone’s imagination. Hers was the balanced view, stating in her later years that, “Intelligence is not a single, unitary ability, but rather a composite of several functions. The term denotes that a combination of abilities required for survival and advancement within a particular culture.” Speculation might arise regarding just why criticism against her work seemed virtually absent from her colleagues and other professionals, especially in education. Anastasi did the work that few others did, and made known the work of other psychologists. As a generalist, her main objective was to lift psychology into the scientific realm of facts—and yet expand its possibilities to create a better world.
In the early years of the twenty-first century, testing—for intelligence and academic proficiency—was a word, a concept, that made the headlines almost daily. The accountability of educators often rested on one or two tests, and served as the basis for the “No Child Left Behind” federal legislation with the reported intention of raising educational standards. Anastasi said that no test could be a predictor of future success, but only in some small part a measure of how a child, for instance, had reacted to the experiences up to that point. For Anastasi, testing was a mere tool in education and the workplace that was meant to help define the best direction. Early in her career, she had reached the conclusion that intelligence was a product of the interaction of heredity and environment. Tests supposedly given across cultural lines were to be evaluated, contended Anastasi, within the context of the group taking the test as well as with a view to the broader perspective. Standardized tests were valid only if they were seen as part of a process, not as an end-product. In terms of intelligence tests alone, Anastasi believed they served three purposes.
- They permit a direct assessment of prerequisite intellectual skills demanded by many important tasks in our culture.
- They assess availability of a relevant store of knowledge or content also prerequisite for many educational and occupational tasks.
- They provide an indirect index of the extent to which the individual has developed effective learning strategies, problem-solving techniques, and work habits; and has utilized them in the past.
According to Anastasi, “Intelligence can be improved at any age, but the earlier one begins the greater will be the return from one’s efforts.” How to best measure that intelligence would be another issue.
Using psychological testing Anastasi’s strict standards for investigation remained her trademark long after her death. What she brought to the world of testing was the demand that statistical evaluation be precise when interpreting tests. What must precede that, of course, was the soundness of the test itself, and of its administration under the strictest standards. As she began the first chapter of her 1961 edition of Psychological Testing, she offered that
Anyone reading this book today could undoubtedly illustrate what is meant by a psychological test. It would be easy enough to recall a test the reader [himself] has taken in school, in college, in the armed services, in the counseling center, or in the personnel office. Or perhaps the reader has served as a subject in an experiment in which standardized tests were employed. This would certainly not have been the case 50 years ago. Psychological testing is a relatively young branch of one of the youngest of the sciences.
Anastasi reminded her readers and students of the common ground they shared. This was indicative of the way in which she moved—slowly and methodically. She set out to explain each step, a subtle reminder to her audience that there were no quick and easy answers when examining such a complex matter.
Anastasi provided some examples of how careful the professional tester must be. In order to accomplish the goal, she encouraged the ethical safeguards that had been adopted by the APA to ensure against misuse.
Some of Anastasi’s proposed examples of test misuse, based on real incidents, were:
- “May I have a Stanford-Binet blank? I’d like to find my little sister’s I.Q. The family thinks she’s precocious.”
- “Last night I answered the questions in an intelligence test published in our newspaper, and I got an I.Q. of 80—I think psychological tests are silly.”
- “My roommate is studying psych. She gave me a personality test and I came out neurotic. I’ve been too upset to go to class ever since.”
Anastasi’s point was that psychological tests could be misused in those and other ways that would make the test worthless. The greater consequence of such misuse would be that the supposed results of a test under the wrong circumstances could do great harm to an individual or group. She quoted two statements from the Ethical Standards of Psychologists that helped illustrate the potential hazards of unethical testing.
The two statements read as follows:
- “The psychologist who asks that an individual reveal personal information in the course of interviewing, testing, or evaluation, or who allows such information to be divulged to him, does so only after making certain that the person is aware of the purpose of the interview, testing, or evaluation and of the ways in which the information may be used.”
- “The psychologist in industry, education, and other situations in which conflicts of interest may arise among varied parties, as between management and labor, defines for himself the nature and direction of his loyalties and responsibilities and keeps these parties informed of these commitments.”
Almost 50 years after Anastasi first proposed that such ethics be strictly followed, questions arise. The early twenty-first century represented an era of the “tell-all” talk show with celebrity psychologists. Many popular magazines offer personality “tests” monthly in order to determine everything from the success of a marriage to child-raising to career direction. Certainly, her interest in spreading the value of applied psychology and the benefits of psychological testing has been served. Whether or not the commercial marketplace heeded her admonitions remains another issue.
Modern issues in testing The question of the marketplace in the creation, administration, and interpretation of intelligence tests was an issue addressed by Robert Sternberg in his own theory of intelligence. Frank R. Yekovich, in a 1994 paper prepared for the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) in cooperation with the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, Washington, D.C., discussed Sternberg’s theories, as well as those of Howard Gardner and John L. Horn. Yekovich noted in Current Issues in Research on Intelligence that the general consensus by the end of the twentieth century was that intelligence was a composite of factors, not one concept. Each of the three scholars represented distinct views, however.
Sternberg’s work (1985) revealed his theory of intelligence was composed of three subtheories. They were: context, indicating that the definition of intelligence was found within a given culture or context; experience, representing the amount of experience within a class of particular tasks—with the more unfamiliar the task tackled and successfully performed indicating higher intelligence; and, cognitive components of information processing, with the idea that structure plus processes equaled intelligence. Sternberg also differentiated between various kinds of intelligence, such as academic, practical, and other similar categories.
Gardner’s theory seems to have borrowed an idea from Thurstone, in that he suggested seven components in determining intelligence. Those components included logical-mathematical, linguistic, musical, spatial, bodilykinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal.
Horn, who developed his theory in concert with another well-known psychologist, Raymond Cattell, offered a two-part determination. One component was the category of “fluid abilities,” meaning the reasoning used in novel circumstances. The other was “crystallized abilities,” indicating the extent to which an individual has attained the knowledge of the culture.
Anastasi’s concerns were well-represented in these, and other contemporary concerns of intelligence tests, at the end of the twentieth into the twenty-first. Intelligence was not seen as a category into which a person was to be classified. Rather, professionals determined that intelligence testing was to be used as a measure of how heredity and experiences combine to provide a diagnostic tool.
In 1992, Sternberg was one of many in the professional community expressing misgivings about the current state of testing. The popularization of intelligence and personality tests were made available to anyone with Internet service, a television, radio, bookstore, or magazine stand. The easy access to both sound and unsound tests was a dictate of the marketplace, Sternberg said. Clearly, money was to be made in testing, and that would likely remain true for years to come. Even in academic circles, the demand for standardized proficiency tests was not always seen in the best interest of improving educational standards. Some would argue that tests were often being created more with an eye to profitability rather than the intense and plodding determinations to be carefully examined, for instance, when considering the future of a child’s education.
Anastasi provided a standard against which psychological testing was to be measured. She gave credence to the relatively modern field of applied psychology, helping to provide guidance for creating a better workplace, school system, and government. What others would carry into the future with that legacy remains to be seen.
Theories in Action
From the beginning of her days as a student in experimental psychology, Anastasi had an awareness of the necessity of creating the highest scientific standards. She quickly moved from the simple stimulus-response form of testing into one that represented a more highly individualized form. It was testing wherein the exceptions to the general concept became as crucial to the results as to the initial hypothesis. Her research included both animal experiments and human testing and surveys. She relied on the methods of all credible researchers. In order to understand behavior, Anastasi knew that it was important to build from the most basic realities of physiology and biology before proceeding to the more difficult aspects of determining human behaviors.
Simply stated, Anastasi encouraged research most obviously in the constancy of attention she gave both to her students and fellow professionals. She was a mentor to at least two generations of future psychologists and other students. Never did she waiver from the devotion to the truth that she inspired in her own academic community, and the larger one outside of it. Though not the initiator of the heredity versus environment theories of differential psychology, her 1937 work was a herald of what was to come. It was a forerunner of the long discussion that would never seem to reach a conclusion. She asked the important questions and challenged other researchers to delve deeper in the attempt to unravel the mysteries of human behavior. Anastasi carefully examined research results in a tireless effort to determine what was valid and what was inconclusive. She was a champion of the hard-working researchers who advanced psychological testing, as well as their most sincere critic.
A vast array of intelligence, aptitude, and personality tests emerged, particularly after World War II, and Anastasi was often called to evaluate them. By the end of the 1950s, when she spoke, the psychological and academic worlds listened. In the late 1960s when proponents of so-called “culturally fair” testing came forth, Anastasi was there to argue that no totally unbiased tests existed. She usually represented the voice of caution when the professional community was deciding such matters too hastily. Anastasi provided a grounding of lofty philosophical and psychological theories with real-world situations that required practical problem-solving.
Some of Anastasi’s case studies and research are interesting as much from a historical perspective as a scientific perspective. She helped to develop and clarify experiments and testing methods. The research results fill volumes over the expanse of her 50-year academic career. Her work with intelligence tests in particular encompassed groups of individuals rather than focusing simply on the individuals themselves. The tool of testing would ultimately extend to understanding an individual and how best to determine intelligence or behavior. But the importance of Anastasi’s work was based in obtaining a complete picture of how each individual fit into a culture or group, and how that would inform a study of human behavior. Those examples that follow represent only a small portion of the significance of her studies.
Individual differences Anastasi presented the results of a learning test as early as the second chapter of Differential Psychology. She introduces the section by explaining that:
Since individual differences have been found to be quantitative, we may now ask how the varying degrees of each trait are distributed among people. Are individuals scattered uniformly over the entire range or do they cluster at one or more points? What are the relative frequencies with which different degrees of a trait occur?
As the basis for this evaluation of difference, Anastasi used the scores of 1,000 students on a simple learning test. The scores ranged from eight to 52 and were grouped into class-intervals (representing each score) of four points. She first organized the scores into a table revealing the data. She then was able to construct a graph in order to show the distribution curve. Such a curve was helpful in determining how to treat the results, and identify any possible trends in learning distribution.
The results of the sampling within 12 class-intervals were as follows, with each scoring range followed by the number of students who scored within that range:
- 52-55: 1
- 48-51: 1
- 44-47: 20
- 40-43: 73
- 36-39: 156
- 32-35: 328
- 28-31: 244
- 24-27: 136
- 20-23: 28
- 16-19: 8
- 12-15: 3
- 8-11: 2
The total of 1000 students were then distributed along a curve, called a frequency polygon. The results represented a norm wherein the majority of students fell within a median. The curve concept, according to Anastasi (writing in 1937), was an old one in statistics. What Anastasi was able to do was to create other kinds of distribution curves that revealed samplings and statistics of various kinds—all with the purpose of providing a simple understanding on which to build in the statistical gathering of information.
Differences among social or occupational groups In her 1937 discussion of heredity and environment on intelligence and behavior, Anastasi cited one study on the effect of the home environment and schooling on intelligence as measured by H. Gordon as early as 1923, in London, England. Gordon served as the official Inspector of Schools and based his report on his findings in that capacity, observing those known as the “canal-boat children” and those of the Gypsy children. (In twenty-first-century America, Gordon might have similarly studied homeless children, or those of the groups known as the “Irish travelers” who move their extended families to various communities often throughout the course of a year.) The actual results were based on the Stanford-Binet intelligence tests and educational test scores of various groups of children whose schooling was deficient. This was in the early days of a developing awareness that such factors as stability of home life and good health could seriously affect the academic performance of a child. Such a notion had not always been prevalent. In any case, Gordon’s results of the canal-boat children came from the two special schools that were open for the purpose of educating such children. Their only chance to attend school was during the time that the canal boats were docked for loading or discharging. The average child attended school about 5% of the time. Most of them only attended school on a monthly basis, for a one or two consecutive half-day period. Their home life was not intellectually stimulating, though health and cleanliness usually met appropriate standards. Most of the adults were illiterate, with families living isolated lives, and not engaging in much social interaction, even among themselves.
The number of canal-boat children was 76. The average IQ was 69.9, a score considered to be “borderline” in 1923. A few of the children were considered “feeble-minded,” which was a term used at the time for individuals of a low intelligence. (Modern-day terminology often offers profile in such instances that is not so negative in its connotation.) The correlation that Gordon calculated between age and IQ within the group was a negative .755. Such a calculation indicated that the older children were more likely to score a lower IQ than the younger children. Results should have indicated the opposite, with the older children representing more advancement. The results were interpreted in terms of specific negative environmental influences. The younger children were not too far below the normal children, a difference from their older siblings. Anastasi wrote that:
The high negative correlation with age is corroborated by analysis of individual scores. In 22 cases, two or more children from the same family were tested. With only one or two exceptions, there was found a consistent drop in IQ from the youngest to the eldest child within each family. Most of the youngest children had IQs between 90 and 100, which would place them within the normal group; among the eldest, on the other hand, were several whose IQs were low enough to make them appear distinctly feebleminded. A further corroborative fact brought out by this analysis is that the mental ages of children within a single family tended to be very similar, even though their chronological ages differed. Such a mental age might well represent the limit of intellectual development which was made possible by the available educational opportunities and the type of home environment furnished within the given family.
Gordon’s findings among the Gypsy children were similar. Though these children attended school at a higher rate than the canal-boat children—34.9% of the attendance of the average child—similar results of decreasing IQ among the older children prevailed. The average IQ score was 74.5, with those attending school more often more likely to score higher.
What emerged from such early studies was the necessity to gather the facts based on scientific methods rather than making presumptions about an outcome. Anastasi gathered information in such a way to demonstrate that a whole new area of knowledge was opening up in areas where preconceived notions had been considered sufficient.
Cross-cultural testing Of the many forms of testing Anastasi discussed in her textbook, one was the non-language test, designed to test individuals raised in different cultures or subcultures. Some non-language tests, as Anastasi pointed out, were still inadequate at times due to the presupposition of knowledge that such tests often embody. As early as 1954, Anastasi was adamant in her argument that culturally fair tests were impossible to design. Still, one such cross-cultural test example that she offered was the Leiter International Performance Scale, by R. G. Leiter. The Leiter is a series of tests that was developed in Hawaii, using both elementary and high school students. Another researcher, S. D. Porteus, eventually applied it to African groups, in addition to other national groups by a few other investigators. A revised version in 1948 was based on testing of American students, as well as Army recruits during World War II.
The most significant feature of the test is its lack of instructions, either verbal or through signs. Each of the tests begins with a simple task that resembles similar tasks throughout the rest of the test battery. The subject’s ability to comprehend the task is a part of the test itself. The materials include a response frame with an adjustable card holder, to which response cards can be attached. The cards each contain a printed picture. The subject chooses the blocks with the proper response pictures and puts them into the frame. The test was created in order to cover a wide range of functions, much like those found in verbal tests. Some of the tasks included: matching identical colors, shades of gray, forms, or pictures; copying a block design; picture completion; number estimation; analogies; series completion; recognition of age differences; spatial relations; footprint recognition; similarities; memory for a series; and a classification of animals according to habitat.
The test was arranged in year levels, from two to 18. Each test is administered with no time limit. Scoring is done in terms of mental age (MA) and IQ, with no guarantee that the IQ remains constant in its meaning at different ages—which in fact, data showed did represent significant variation in the standard deviation of the IQs at different age levels. The test findings were shown to have high correlations as reported by some teachers with their ratings of intelligence, and other intelligence tests, including the Stanford-Binet. The correlations range from the latter was .64 to .81. They were results obtained from heterogeneous groups, so that figure might be different were the groups of a more homogeneous composition.
Anastasi, as mentioned by her colleagues and admirers, was extremely thorough in her textbooks, particularly in Psychological Testing. Her survey included hundreds of tests used for various study or experimental purposes. She presented information on tests that included various intelligence tests, especially the Stanford-Binet; various industrial screening tests for adults; performance and non-language tests; testing for physically challenged; a variety of tests for infants and preschool children; the Wechsler Scales and other clinical tests; various aptitude test batteries; and a number of personality profile tests. Her text in applied psychology represented applications in various areas that included personnel development; psychology to study engineers; consumer psychology; clinical applications; counseling therapy; and the use of psychology in the fields of education, medicine, law, and government settings. Anastasi supplied dozens of cases of tests that were ultimately responsible for the changes that occurred in the workplace and even in the supermarket in the latter half of the twentieth century.
Relevance to Modern Readers
Anyone who has ever taken or administered a psychological or intelligence test of any kind is likely to have Anastasi to account for it. Even with the issue of the modern “pop culture” personality tests haphazardly given or taken, all modern psychological testing owes its reliability to Anastasi. Taking tests has long been a fact of life, not unlike death or taxes. Aptitude tests are taken for early placement in college. Psychological profiles are given in clinical settings to better serve those with mental health issues. Consumer products—everything from toothpaste to microwavable sandwiches to television shows—are tested among control populations that are determined as representative of the average citizen.
In less than 100 years since the first psychological tests and experiments were conducted, Anastasi made tremendous advances in testing to the greater advantage of others. Some tests have not been reliable. Some have had faulty interpretations of their results. Many of these issues affected such areas as racial equality, economic standing, and whether or not parent were fit to raise their own children. Prejudices and ideas without scientific basis were often too successful in dismissing a person to a life that was less than desirable. People such as the famous writer and personality Helen Keller, without the faculties of sight or hearing, were cast out of normal society. They were admitted to mental institutions and left to deteriorate without regard for investigation into what their intelligence might be. In fact, the advances in medical science throughout the twentieth century helped to concur with what the advances in psychological testing indicated. One often served the other in the quest for human understanding. During the early years of the twenty-first century, society is not so far removed from the time when people were judged on the basis of a perceived deficit, without knowing the true nature of their abilities.
Anastasi said that when examining intelligence:
Not only does the nature of one’s antecedent experiences affect the degree of differentiation of “intelligence” into distinct abilities, but it also affects the particular abilities that emerge, such as verbal, numerical, and spatial abilities. Thus, experiential factors affect not only the level of the individual’s development, but also the very categories in terms of which [his] abilities may be identified.
During a modern age of bombardment with stimuli such as television commercials, music videos, or elaborate Internet Web sites, Anastasi has something relevant to impart. Because of her scientific rigor, average individuals—if they exist—have been offered an alternative to superstition, prejudice, and faulty thinking in getting to know themselves better. People should not imagine that there are tests that will absolutely justify their actions or who they think they are. Instead, Anastasi has offered generations of individuals a way to manage society’s ills, for instance, by understanding human behavior. She stood for nothing less than exacting scientific data to represent the widely ranging variety of humans and their abilities. Her intention was not to categorize people, or stereotype them by their abilities. She wanted to use her work as a tool to discover what those abilities could mean.
Anastasi also serves as an important reminder to young women of the twenty-first century. She might not have said she struggled in a man’s world as many of her generation might have said. She seemed content enough to satisfy her intellectual curiosity and fit into her research and academic niche without regard to her gender. But Anastasi did successfully utilize her assets to transcend any barriers due to her gender—in addition to those barriers that could have befallen her due to an unusual, nontraditional family, or her inability to bear children at a time when that often proved to be a social stigma for a married woman. In so doing, she took great strides for other women as well. Her ability to turn the worst or saddest circumstance into one of fortune is an example that was not lost on her friends and colleagues. Perhaps she was born with a gene for such ability. Or perhaps she, too, was the product of heredity, environment, and a wealth of experiences enough to transform an entire discipline into one of the most valuable assets available to modern individuals—the chance to know themselves and others.