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The Cattell Controversy: Race, Science, and Ideology

The author, himself a psychologist, has found it necessary to "expose" his subject for that eminence's writings on race and eugenics. This is a case with some parallels with that of the famous British psychologist Sir Cyril Burt and the question of Burt's likely fudging of data—even of inventing fictive subjects and co-investigators—to prove that nature prevailed over nurture in the forming of intelligence. All three were highly intelligent and well-known, albeit unapologetic, supporters of eugenics and similar racist nostrums.

The Cattell Controversy: Race, Science, and Ideology

As a publishing scholar Cattell was no slouch; he published fifty-six books, more than five hundred journal articles and book chapters, and approximately thirty standardized instruments for evaluating personality in his seventy-year career, spent mainly as a research professor at the University of Illinois. Two days before the award ceremony, the Foundation abruptly postponed, and eventually denied, the award to Cattell because of concerns about his views on racial segregation and eugenics. What the author is at pains to show, and does so very well, is that there was no contradiction between Cattell's technical work and his racist politics.

Factor analysis is [End Page ] a statistical technique in which the investigator attempts to discern, by a series of parallel measurements, whether there is or is not an underlying core of common traits. What Cattell proposed to do was to devise a series of instruments that would show an underlying basis of personality traits, which, he asserted, were therefore innate.


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Thus there could be personality types among different individuals and even nations could have personalities. This is something like the old story in which, if one has a hammer, one is always searching for a nail. The difficult, if rewarding, part of the book comes with the author's careful dissection of Cattell's scientific work, and curious readers are referred to this large chapter. Apparently Cattell was honored for being a pioneer in personality assessment, but few, if any, could replicate his findings—a devastating finding for any scientist—and almost all who followed him in the field paid homage to his pioneering work which they nevertheless concluded was, at best, problematic and not useful to those who did not share his assumptions.

The Cattell Controversy Race Science And Ideology 2009

It turns out that Cattell wrote pieces in which he endorsed eugenics, racial segregation, and even the prewar National Socialist regime in Germany—and it was these actions, performed throughout his career as parallel to his scientific work, that scotched his chances for that Gold Medal of the American Psychological Foundation. The author deals with these matters dispassionately and in an expert manner.


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William H Tucker Publisher: State or province government publication: English View all editions and formats Summary: Raymond Cattell, the father of personality trait measurement, was one of the most influential psychologists in the twentieth century, the author of fifty-six books, more than five hundred journal articles and book chapters, and some thirty standardized instruments for assessing personality and intelligence in a professional career that spanned almost seventy years. Then, only two days before the scheduled ceremony, the APF abruptly postponed the presentation of the award due to concerns involving Cattell's views on racial segregation and eugenics.

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Derived from science, Cattell's evolutionary philosophy was intended to be the basis of a full-blown religion. Although the earliest of these works had been published in the s, near the end of an era in which eugenically based policies for human improvement were much more acceptable, Cattell promoted similar ideas well into the s and '90s.

Tucker discusses the controversy that arose within the field in response to the award's postponement, after which Cattell withdrew his name from consideration for the award but insisted that his position had been distorted by taking statements out of context.

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Reflecting on these events, Tucker concludes with a discussion of the complex question of whether and how a scientist's ideological views should ever be a relevant factor in determining the value of his or her contributions to the field. Allow this favorite library to be seen by others Keep this favorite library private. Find a copy in the library Finding libraries that hold this item Electronic books Additional Physical Format: Biography, Document, Government publication, State or province government publication, Internet resource Document Type: William H Tucker Find more information about: Publisher Synopsis "Clearly and meticulously documents Cattell's segregationist views.

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