The Army Testing Program

When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Yerkes was president of the APA. He called a special meeting of the association to determine how psychologists could help in the war effort. It was decided that one way psychologists could contribute was by devising means for selecting and evaluating recruits into the armed forces. Upon Goddard’s invitation, a small group of psychologists, including Yerkes and Terman, went to the Vineland Training School to develop psychological tests that were then tried at various army and navy bases. The results were encouraging, and Yerkes was made an army major and given the job of organizing a testing program for the entire army (the navy rejected the idea). The goals of the program were to identify those with mental deficiencies, to classify men in terms of their intelligence level, and to select individuals for special training—for example, to become officers. Yerkes believed that, to be effective, the test used had to be a group test rather than an individual test, had to measure “native” intelligence, and had to be easy to administer and score. Using Yerkes’s point-score method, the group created a test that met these criteria; however, they found that 40% of the recruits could not read well enough to take the test. The group solved the problem by creating two forms of the test: the Army Alpha for literate indi- viduals and the Army Beta for illiterate individuals or for those who spoke and read a language other than English.

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