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History of Psychological Assessments: The Army Alpha and Beta Tests

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History of Psychological Assessments: The Army Alpha and Beta Tests

PSYCH/525 Measurements and Statistics

January 16, 2012

Dr. Nancy Berman Lees

History of Psychological Assessments: The Army Alpha and Beta Tests

The 19th century brought forth a demanding interest in classifying mental disorders. This interest in classifying mental disorders led many people to create psychological tests and assessments. Psychological testing made its breakthrough with the IQ test, once known as the Binet test, made famous by Alfred Binet. The creation, use, and results of this test intrigued the American Psychological Association and was believed to be of benefit to the United States Army. This led the creation of the Army Alpha and Beta tests. Forms of the Alpha and Beta tests are still used by the United States military (Cohen & Swerdlik, 2010).

The Army Alpha and Beta History

At the beginning for World War I Robert M. Yerkes, president of the American Psychological Association (APA) wanted to gather other psychologists to help create tests for the military that would aid in the war. These tests were to be designed to determine which areas soldiers were best suited for and which soldiers who were not capable of active combat by determining the recruits' ability to learn, comprehend, and quickly think and act. Within weeks these psychologists came up with two tests known as the Army Alpha test and the Army Beta test. The Army Alpha test was a written test that was given to recruits who could read and write English. This test contained "general information questions, analogies, and scrambled sentences to reassemble" (Cohen & Swerdlik, 2010, p. 336)

The Army Beta test was created to administer to recruits whom did not have a good knowledge of English or to those who could not read or write. In the Beta version of the test the recruits completed tasks, such as mazes, coding, and finishing a partially drawn picture. Based on the results of the Army Alpha and Beta tests some recruits were discharged and others were assigned to units they were best suited for. For example, low scoring recruits may have been assigned to digging ditches and high scoring recruits may have been assigned to more prestige positions (Cohen & Swerdlik, 2010).

The Army Alpha and Beta tests were designed to determine which recruits would make ideal soldiers, but after word got out that the military was using this test the general public wanted to use these tests as well. The Army Alpha and Beta tests were easy to "obtain, administer, and interpret" (Cohen & Swerdlik, 2010, p. 337) as well as cheaper than the Binet test, therefore the public wanted to get their hands on this test to use. The military did not have a great interest

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