Look at the Evolution of Industrial Psychology
Brent N Baxter
There I was, a new PhD on his first job, teaching general psychology to
sophomores at Ohio State University under the direction of Dr. Dockery. I was
delighted to have a professional job; jobs were hard to come by in those days,
for the depression from the 30's was still in evidence. As a PhD student, I had
been given no training (except by example) in how to teach college students. But
I proceeded on this career with the usual self-confidence and a text by Dr.
Dockery. I knew I would eventually be building a testing center for vocational
guidance that would be much like that at the University of Minnesota, my home
grounds. But this story is getting way ahead of itself. What experiences had led
to this setting and how did those experiences facilitate research in industrial
In the 1930's, I attended the school system in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. My
mother had decided I should become a lawyer and had already made contact with a
Cleveland law firm. I knew nothing about the requirements of a lawyer, but she
felt it would be a fine occupation for me. When I was a junior in high school,
she began studying books on psychology; especially interested in the causes and
course of deviate behaviors. Unknown to our family at the time, she was
sensitive to the course of a brain tumor from which she died within a year,
leaving her family at the height of the depression.
My father had grown up on a family farm near Flint, Michigan and was among the
first graduates at the local high school (and the first in his family). He
abandoned the farm and took to building tops for buggies. When automobiles were
created shortly thereafter, he started a company to build automobile tops.
Later, when auto companies started designing their own tops, my Dad built side
curtains to keep out the wind and rain. But again, the auto companies took over
that function. While I did not directly live through this evolution, I heard the
many facets of its operation and their implications in being the manager of
employees as he created other auto repair business. But, while I observed the
workers, being a supervisor never attracted my attention. My
father never urged me in that direction, nor did he pursue Mother's interest
in law. He was just curious about what would become of his son who was an above
average student. Despite the great financial pressures of
the thirties, he managed (I can't imagine how) to send me to Western Reserve
In my freshman year the student prize came my way, in Chemistry, a subject I had
undertaken only to meet the science requirements. My chemistry professor and my
Father were both upset that I did not continue pursuit of this subject as a
profession. Instead, as a Sophomore, I went on to other subjects: biology,
English, political science .... and psychology! The latter proved interesting
but not overwhelmingly so. In my junior year,
psychology offered in the Women's college was more interesting! But what really
shifted my attention to psychology?
The head of the Department, Dr.
Roland Travis, asked me to help him conduct a study on reaction time, the response to bodily
movement when blinded. The building and operation of special equipment to
measure the reaction time was fascinating. Putting fellow students through
the tests, recording the results, and assisting in documenting the
results were all quite exciting. Imagine later seeing my name as joint author on
Another event sold me on
psychology. Dr. Travis asked me to be in charge of running a lie detector
demonstration as part of the WRU exhibit during the summers of 1936 and 1937 at
the Cleveland Great Lakes Fair. Successful demonstrations were very exciting and
there was a lot to learn from the failures (including how to explain them to the
Other courses went well enough
to earn a Phi Beta Kappa key and graduation with honors. The fun of starting a
College tennis team, serving as president of my fraternity and meeting the girl
I was to marry, all added to college enjoyment. But not to a clear understanding
of future vocations.
Earning money from the lie detection demonstrations enabled me to consider
entering graduate school for advanced psychology (for which my interest was
developing). But there was little or no knowledge of the options for a graduate
to earn a livelihood. I certainly didn't want to work in the mental hospital our
University of Minnesota offered slightly more stipend than other colleges ($300
a year as I recall). From a vocational point of view, I did not have information
on what fields their graduates entered, nor was information available about
other schools' graduates. I had only to rely on Dr. Travis' recommendation that
the University of Minnesota had excellent professors on the staff in psychology.
The University in 1937 required broad coverage of the fields of psychology, no
one referring to industrial psychology. The professors were excellent: Dr.
Richard Elliot, head of the Department and Teacher of theoretical psychology;
Dr. Miles Tinker, experimental psychology; Dr. Charles Bird, social psychology;
Donald Paterson, individual differences; Howard Longstaff, advertising and
industrial placement and selection; Starke Hatheway, clinical Psychology; John
Darley, student counseling; B.F. Skinner, clinical Psychology; and William
Heron. Instruction in statistics was offered by Palmer Johnson in the Department
of Educational Psychology.
While at this time no professors were offering a course in industrial
psychology, it is interesting to note that all but Dr. Elliott had interests in
some practical applications of psychology. For example, Dr. Tinker who was my
advisor for both M.A. and Ph.D. degrees taught all the experimental courses, but
his personal research was in the field of factors that affected reading. He
contributed considerably to the design of printing to facilitate rapid and
Since my courses at Western Reserve University had included all the experimental
psychology courses, only one additional such course was needed to meet the
requirements for this field at the University of Minnesota. For unknown reasons
the courses in the growing field of sample statistics attracted my attention
and were all completed. This work was under the guidance of Dr. Palmer
Johnson. This subject led me to the many London
publications of Dr. R.A. Fisher
and Dr. F. Yates.
The possibility of obtaining accurate evaluation of variations in small samples
intrigued me. It would open up new possibilities for research. Dr. Tinker was
one of the first to accept and utilize those "new" statistical
designs, and we often joined hands in understanding
and applying Dr. Johnson's
concepts. The methodology later became common and invaluable in industrial
research where large samples are usually not available.
The new methods were not well known either by fellow psychology students or the
professors. This led me to create an example of their application to a
psychological problem to demonstrate their value. The idea led to a Ph.D.
thesis, "An Application of Factorial Design to a Psychological
Problem." Its contribution to future industrial work was its discussion of
the effects of test reliability on the interpretation of studies involving
course closest to what became industrial psychology was offered by Donald
Paterson who recounted the personnel problems encountered in the Army research
during World War I. He provided my first contact with the issues and conditions
that would have to be faced in the real world of industry.
In general, the experiences encountered in the doctorate did not directly
prepare me for working in industry. Their problems were not understood nor was I
acquainted with any history of related studies previously conducted. Yes, I had
heard of the work of Morris Viteles with streetcar conductors in Philadelphia.
Though born in Russia, he was an early contributor to industrial psychology in
the United States.
But the problems of a criterion and the detailed steps of job analysis,
formation of tests, etc. were not adequately understood. I was more interested
in testing as it applied to college student guidance. This returns us to the
experience as a general psychology instructor and the war-time efforts to use
psychology in the placement of civilian workers.
The fall semester at Ohio State barely got under way when December 7, 1941
greeted us with the attack upon Pearl Harbor. Students and faculty all turned to
identifying ways in which they could help their country. An advanced graduate
student, Charles Gibbons, and I wondered if tests could be used in selecting and
placing new employees at the Curtiss-Wright Aircraft Company in Columbus, Ohio.
Our meeting with their Director of Personnel met with complete failure and many
questions: What do psychologists know about selecting aircraft employees? What
tests are available to select such employees? What do we know about the jobs at
Curtiss-Wright? We were asked to
call back in a week with answers to all the questions. That week identified our
lack of knowledge in this field. Our return phone call revealed that the
Director of Personnel also wasn't equipped to deal with the upcoming problems.
He was fired!
Where next? I paid a visit to the nearby base at Wright-Patterson air field
outside of Dayton, Ohio. They were beginning to set up a personnel staff and one
of its goals would be to create methods for placing new employees in the jobs
for repairing and overhauling aircraft. Roger Lennon from the World Book Company
had just come aboard and would soon head this activity. Would I please take the
test being given to all new applicants, Army Alpha? (My M.A. thesis had involved
the administration and manual scoring of hundreds of the same form.) When I
readily answered all the questions correctly, I was greeted as a super genius.
(They didn't even ask if I had prior experience with the tests.) So the end of
the school year in June 1942 found me at an entirely new kind of work at Wright
Field - a form of industrial psychology.
The Air Service Command grew rapidly with repair depots throughout the United
States, often at locations that had no personnel with aircraft experience (e.g.
Rome, Georgia; Ogden, Utah; Spokane, Washington).
Our applicants included many
older men, women of all ages, and few with work experience.
There were no validated tests, no norms, and no experienced personnel to
administer or interpret the tests. Some tests with apparent validity came from
the U.S. Employment Service but were not available for our use. Other sources
provided scattered examples, but not with relevant validation or norms. We had
to start from scratch with a staff that had little or no experience with job
analysis item development, criteria, norming,
and establishment of standards. Previous testing experience, if any,
came from school settings.
Finding relevant staff personnel was
very difficult. We were fortunate to have Roger Lennon as our leader. His
experience with testing at World Book Company proved invaluable, especially that
related to item and test construction, and related statistical analysis. Other
staff members included Dr. William Biel, Dr. Ruth Cruikshank Bussey, Dr. James
Karslake, and Dr. Evelyn Potechin Perloff. Staff members often had little
parallel practical experience , but we all enjoyed learning in a hurry.
The work included not only all aspects of test development and validation for placement
of personnel, but also methods of application. Staff members were assigned to
report to distant airfields, select and train local test office administrators,
and advise on special research activities for that area.
Similar types of research were launched in the Army, Navy, and public
organizations. Few opportunities existed to coordinate these activities as we
all struggled to meet the demands of the War. While the demands of chaos were
met, remember that at the same time "industrial" psychology was being
reconceived and applied. Staff members were
being trained, and new ideas
about management of personnel were being conceived. The War wasn't all bad!
the end of the War, industry was suddenly swamped with the problems of
rebuilding their organizations, their products, and their selection and training
of a new staff. Some of their staff members, returning from military experience
in personnel procedures, were rushed into directing similar assignments in
civilian operations. (They found that the military tasks had been different, and
the civilian training and supervision of staff did not involve the strict, dictatorial system of management.) Many
companies turned to the military organizations to locate staff with experience
with "The great personnel management that had won the War!"
the organizations seeking such a person was Owens, Illinois Glass Company. On
their staff was my Ohio State friend, Charles Gibbons. They asked me to join
their Company but I soon found it was only to prepare me for transfer to their
subsidiary, Owens Corning Fiberglass, a new and growing organization. (It soon
became an independent corporation.)
In my first experience with the new Company, (1945), its Personnel Director
greeted me in our first meeting with the question: "Can you tell me what in
heck does a psychologist do in industry?"
What a question to start a new job! Nobody had ever told me the answer. Charlie
Gibbons hadn't told me what problems a psychologist worked on. But the question
led to some wonderful experiences.
I asked to sit in on the personnel staff meetings and to visit Owens-Corning
plants around the country. I soon became acquainted with the conditions that
were faced in day-to-day operations: selection of staff, training of staff,
evaluation of personnel, the compensation system, promotion steps, etc. My dear
Ph.D. had never prepared me for these procedures and conditions what was
involved, what worked well, how to make them better, how was psychology related
to them, how did employees react to these situations?
I was very fortunate that I was not immediately requested to solve any of the
problems. I was given, instead, access to visit many managers, to learn their
perspectives on these problems, to visit other companies (especially Charlie
Gibbons and his new assistant, Reign Bittner) and reading all the kinds of
material offered to personnel management trainees today. When I was a graduate
student, I knew I could never work harder than I was doing. Not true: the need
to learn more and learn it fast is an important demand upon a newcomer to a
Let me recount how some psychology was used as a new worker.
The Company had recently begun the use of a new test in the selection of
hourly plant employees. I was told not to get involved with this program; it was
entirely under the direction of the Training Director in our department (not a
psychologist). My curiosity about the test led me to sub-rosa locate some data
on the reliability of the test (no data found on its validity). The
administration of the test was ingenious
and loved by the supervisors,
but I found it had very low reliability. I published the results without
revealing the source of the data. The article did not reduce the popularity of
the test. Instead I was flooded with requests from many companies for
information to locate and purchase the tests. This response reflects on the
state of industrial psychology in 1947!
Curiosity about the employee reactions to the various personnel programs led to
the development and administration of an employee attitude survey in each plant.
This type of survey had been conducted in the Owens Illinois Company and proved
to be helpful. Why? I think it was because their Director of Personnel was so
eager to find weaknesses, admit the need for improvements, and support their
development. I learned how important this outlook is for any activity a
And then a telephone call was received. Would I care to learn about an opening
for an industrial psychologist at the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway? Peter
Drucker, their personnel consultant, was helping to build a new personnel
program at the railway and had recommended that a psychologist be employed to
direct a related research program. Dr. Joseph Tiffin, well known in industrial
psychology through his textbook had been offered the job but had decided not to
take it. He offered my name, among others, as a possible candidate (this shows
how few with company experience were available).
The program at the Railway had been launched by Robert Young, a financier
dedicated to bringing many new improvements to the operation of the railway. Mr.
Young appointed Charles Hook, Jr. (son of the head of an Ohio Steel Co.) to
direct the development of a new personnel program and suggested Peter Drucker
assist in its
development. Under Mr. Hook, several experts (none psychologists) had been
appointed to develop special programs: e.g. training, wages and salaries,
employment. He now wanted a psychologist to evaluate each of these programs and
the overall changes in the personnel program.
Again, my major duty was to learn the present personnel practices on the
Railway, and the new programs the staff specialists were devising. Two
experienced railroad men were added to the staff to assist all of us in this
learning. Later the total program developed I was appointed to Assistant to the
Vice President, Personnel and Dr. William Kendall came on as Director of
Two years elapsed and progress had been made slowly. The staff was new to
railroad life and the railroaders were new to the possible roles of the
personnel staff. We didn't properly understand them and vice versa. It is
essential that the newly employed psychologist learn the "world" of
his new setting from a modest, understanding point of view. It is so easy for
the new Ph.D. to think he now knows it all and that he is prepared to solve all
the problems. Within our two years, the new group had "won over" only
a few of the old-timers.
But now Mr. Young faced financial collapse and committed suicide. The personnel
staff from Mr. Hook on down no longer had strong top support. Gradually its
members sought other employment, wiser but not having succeeded in its basic
So where does a psychologist with limited business experience go when industrial
psychology has not yet established itself in very many companies? The list of
possibilities is still in my file: Penn State College (Where Dr. Bruce V. Moore
was eager to launch a program in this new industrial psychology but other
faculty members were not supportive); other colleges were even less eager;
companies generally were shy about getting involved in this new field, it had
not yet proven itself. But one company was looking for help.
Waters, in the sales department of the Prudential Insurance Company, had been
seeking to build a high quality sales force whose numbers had declined so
greatly during the War. He had achieved some success in creating an improved
staff but wished to have professional help in further building the selection
program and in developing other activities he felt were needed. Mr. Waters had a
B.A. in Business but more importantly an eagerness and skill in promoting new
programs. He had rapidly learned the statistics and tools of industrial
psychology as they existed at that time. His enthusiasm led to the approval of
my appointment as his Assistant Director of Agencies Research.
Again there was a need to learn procedures of another company;
what psychology could be applied to its particular setting; and how to
get along in another company.
Repetitious as it may be, let's note three activities that were so important to
an industrial psychologist in getting started in a company:
Learning the personnel and other procedures of the company, especially in
the Sales Department. Learn about the products and goals of the company. I
should have taken the professional insurance sales courses offered in the
industry rather than feeling that all I need to know is psychology.
Learning all the various ways that psychology might be able to help with
the company's problems. At any time one may attend a departmental or other
meeting and learn of problems outside of the present research. Be ready to share
your knowledge with others.
Learn how to offer these items without letting others think you feel you
know everything. It is so easy for a Ph.D. to regard himself as superior to all
the BA's, MA's, etc., even if they have 25 more years of company experience.
Instead offer to look into the problem and learn what actions are possible and
effective. But don't seem to trample into others' responsibilities. Be a helper.
Maybe go to the fellow with the problem after the meeting, discuss how you might
help but make the fellow feel he will get credit for any improvements. Building
effective relationships with others in your department is just as important as
any psychological practice. Psychology departments should teach good and bad
strategies for dealing with others within and outside the company being served.
While I was still learning these strategies, I was floored to find how poor new
Ph.D.'s I hired were in this field. As new members of the research staff, I
regularly asked them to attend meetings of other groups in the company, but as a
newcomer they were asked not to be eager to show how smart they were. Their
presence at the meeting helped to remind me not to make offensive comments or
suggestions. Post-meeting discussions of this matter helped to train both of us
on this matter, could new Ph.D.'s be made more aware of this facet of the new
job before being launched from the university.
Below is a brief recounting of the major research activities in the two sales
departments of Prudential from 1949 to 1966 to reflect some increasing
activities of industrial psychology.
There was a continuing effort to create new tests to be administered in local
sales offices. The tests were scored in the central research office and pass/fail
results were reported back. For a criterion, reliance was placed primarily on
the length of survival in the job, though level of sales was also explored. Many
field studies tried to understand the wide variations in successful individual
performance and why they occurred. Far more work involving new methods was
Parallel research was later conducted on the selection of sales managers. Field
studies revealed that successful managers performed in quite different ways.
There is not one pattern of operation that fits all good managers. The job is
not the same in all locations and thus does not have the same requirements. I
wish I knew more about what was learned on this subject after I left Prudential.
Frequent surveys were conducted on the attitudes of Agents. Year to year
variations were identified. Most useful were the post-survey field interviews
that sought to understand better the changes that occurred.
Surveys of Sales Managers were also performed but seemed to be less useful.
Regional Managers felt they already fully understood the outlook of their Agency
limited amount of research completed revealed only that we did not understand
the relationship between the content of the courses, its methods of
administration, and the variations tied to individual personal style of
performance. Why do we tend to think that the same course is appropriate for all
The Agency Research Staff was given the opportunity to conduct studies for
marketing research. They were primarily designed and performed by non-psychology
staff members, those trained in economics. In addition to designing measures of
the sales potential of geographical areas, the impact of various advertising
methods and strategies was evaluated. Efforts were made to tie together Agent
reaction to the advertising and the general public responses. At this point
psychological insights began to make contributions
to plan and interpret the
research. Studies of regular frequency sought to evaluate Agent and public
reaction to the planned advertising material. These served to make continuing
improvements in the advertising strategies.
to the Life Insurance Agency Management
The Life Insurance Companies had formed a Research Group to conduct studies in
all types of studies, many directed to the same kind of work as conducted in
Prudential. The LIAMA studies were largely conducted across all member
companies. Certain statistics were collected across all member companies on a
regular basis. This was very helpful for it allowed a company to compare its
data on a broad basis. The Research Unit was headed during my period at
Prudential by an outstanding psychologist, Dr. Raines Wallace. He provided
excellent guidance as to the kinds of studies where psychology could be used to
gain insight into Agency management. He worked closely with a committee of
research personnel representing many companies. Through Dr. Wallace,
significant growth of industrial psychology was made. Dr. Paul Thayer later
followed Dr. Wallace at LIAMA and made similar contributions.
"No Name" Group.
In 1954 about ten psychologists
working full time in business or industry formed a group that met for two days
three times a year. While this schedule and number of members has varied, the
group has grown and exists to this date. It has played an important role in the
development of industrial psychology. Meetings usually began by each member
reporting his current activities. He might ask for suggestions on how to deal
with certain work, both things to do and what to avoid. The willingness to share
ideas has been amazing and the protection of information has been excellent. If
a member wished to spread information beyond the group, for example, to other
members of his company, he contacted the originator for approval. Perhaps a
special meeting within one's company was arranged.
Criticism of one's work is freely and warmly exchanged. Many strong friendships
have been formed. The fact that the group has existed so long (36 years) speaks
well for its effectiveness.
Employment in a company has not continued as a requirement for membership.
Memberships may have continued even if the person moved to a university, a
consulting firm, or a research service firm. Many members who moved felt they
could not maintain either their time or their professional loyalty to the group,
and then resigned. When new members were needed, the group sought persons with
industrial experience, their abilities evidenced by papers at Division 14
meetings or publications. The odd title for the group originated when the
original members did not want to establish fixed officers, rules or subject
matter. For each meeting one member was asked to set up the next meeting:
schedule, location, any special program topics, plant or office visits, guest
speakers from within his company or outside, and hotel and meal facilities.
Rarely was a meeting held at a resort or recreational facility but rather in or
near company quarters. Members are not required to prepare papers or distribute
their company reports. Yet it is quite likely that members will bring written
materials from their research.
Why has this group been successful? Haven't the Division 14 meetings
accomplished the same thing? First of all, it should be noted that most No Name
members also regularly attend Division 14 meetings and have served as its
officers and committee members. This suggests that the roles of both groups are
important. The No
Name group assures a high level of presentations of one's work.
Its discussions are more open. The group is small, permitting everyone to
participate in the discussions. APA meetings permit wider professional contacts
and attendance at meetings in other fields of interest. No Name is by, for and
of industrial psychology. It has meant a lot to my development.
Division 14 has also meant a great deal to me, especially in its earlier days
and my earlier days. Service on many committees proved useful to understanding a
broader number of members and their activities. They have been part of my
"family". It allowed me to be aware of the varieties of people within
industrial psychology. The wide kinds of settings have shown many different
roles for industrial psychology. It is not all one "thing", not
serving one purpose, not attracting one "kind" of person. These
variations are not taught in the university. It is very difficult for any
professor to maintain knowledge of the growing diversity.
A most helpful experience was service as the Secretary of the Division. (1961 -
1963) It was a great way of becoming acquainted with all the various activities
of the Division. It also revealed how industrial psychology was advancing:
growing membership, broader fields of activity and new research methods.
Becoming President of Division 14 (1964) perhaps had more prestige, but it
definitely gave more opportunity to steer Committee directions by suggesting
additional areas of advancement. The job made one think about the whole field of
psychology, and thank goodness for excellent members who served as committee
job also led to another field of service that provided even broader perspective;
membership on the APA Professional Board of Affairs (1965-1967). It revealed the
various problems faced by APA members in all their various fields. one duty of
the Chairman of the Board (1968) is to report to the APA Board of Directors at
the end of the year the major movements within the profession and their
direction. It took no genius to present a picture of the increasing sources of
friction between the Divisions, of a few Divisions with larger numbers of
members controlling: presentations to Congress; Division control of subjects
presented; control of election of Association officers; promotion of APA
services needed by members in those Divisions, etc. Perhaps these outlooks
reflected only being from a Division of low membership and prestige. But I
believe they also reflected what happened in APA in the next 20 years as the
American Psychological Society was formed and other friction arose. The Board of
Directors in 1968 did not really hear my concerns and no action was taken on the
examples of rising problems. Shall we claim it is all for the good of
"Back on the farm", after 15 years at Prudential my own personal life
was changing. Both Dr. Rains Wallace and I received the opportunity to broaden
beyond the field of insurance by joining the American Institutes for Research.
AIR was formed in 1947 as a non-profit research organization by a leader in many
fields of psychology, Dr. John Flanagan. As the AIR Vice President for Research
(1964) and later the Vice President, Air provided the chance to become better
acquainted with all its various fields of study: education, mental health,
overseas studies. And working with John Flanagan provided a more extensive view
of many fields of education and psychology.
Rains Wallace became President
of the organization in 1968. In 1972, my work was directed to industrial
psychology studies. Independent work was continued in that field through 1983
when I became President of my own BB Research Institute. This led to a wide
variety of studies in many different companies and is still continuing in 1990.
The main subject during this period tied to the formulation and growth of the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. With the establishment of the EEOC was
the need to formulate statements of its role and how the Commission would
operate to achieve its objectives. An EEOC Subcommittee was formed to draft
statements to establish its position, especially with regard to testing. The
Committee contacted the APA who in turn contacted the President of Division 14.
Out of the blue and with very little advance explanation of its purpose, an
Advisory Committee was assembled. As I recall, the Committee included myself,
another psychologist (who worked on divorce cases), a teacher and two others
(one a black person). In its first and only day of meeting, the Advisory
Committee was introduced to each other in the morning, and given a statement for
its objectives. In the afternoon it tried to draft a statement concerning the
use of tests. The committee was assembled in groups of 2 or 3 who then presented
its section to the EEOC Committee Head. There was no opportunity for discussion
between Advisory Committee members, and no time for it to discuss its crude
drafts with EEOC. Nevertheless, a month or two later without further interaction
with the Advisory Committee, EEOC issued its first Guidelines for Equal
Employment. These guidelines were issued before I knew what had happened (e.g. I
never saw a draft of the statements issued) but it had a major impact on the
rest of my research life.
No training had been received on the role of an expert witness in court. What
does he do in preparation for giving testimony? In what ways can he help the
lawyer? What does he say? What should he avoid saying? What should his attitude
be toward the Judge, toward the opposing lawyer, toward the plaintiff? How
technical should his answers be? Psychologists in the University should be given
at least some instruction in this field.
And in 1962 lawyers needed some instruction about tests and about the statistics
involved. The lawyers and I both had a lot to learn about each other's
profession. It was a challenge and a very interesting experience. The most
important task was not to show in your answers how much you knew about the
subjects involved but how to be most helpful to the judge in understanding the
answers. How does an expert witness demonstrate that he is quite knowledgeable
in the field but at the same time make his replies simple and clear to the
Judge? This need was especially important in the 60's and 70's when the EEOC
problems were new to the courts. As
an expert witness you must hope that your co-worker (lawyer) knows the abilities
and attitudes of the judge. Since those decades, many lawyers and judges have
become quite fluent in the subject.
At the outset my cases were all in support of the plaintiff but the later
requests for services nearly all came from the defending companies. My response
to requests for assistance was to obtain as much relevant information as possible.
Good information was often hard to find; It had never been obtained by either
party. The expert witness had to instruct the lawyer on what would be relevant
information and how to obtain it. Next came planning what and how the
information should be presented. These steps were generally far more time
consuming that the testimony.
But the courtroom process isn't just the fun of determining the truth. To be
sure, it is a contest to show that you know what information is most relevant
and that you properly learned all about it. But too often it may be a battle
where the opposing witness and lawyer try to show that you are not very smart
and not well prepared. This may lead you to decide to go back to a less
combative setting. After about fifteen cases, I was much less interested in the
testimony phases of a case but intrigued by methods of gathering relevant,
After a large number of cases had been published in the law journals, a
challenging task was to understand the information presented in the case, how it
was interpreted and how the judge reached his conclusions. The latter
step is hard to follow. You see why some case decisions are challenged and later
overruled. In one situation the first judge ruled against "me", but on
appeal six years later his decision was overruled. But today, three years later,
all of the data the appeals court requested has yet to be assembled.
These experiences over 20 years explain why I both enjoyed the expert witness
work and on the other hand wouldn't look for any more. But psychologists need
far more instruction in this unique little bit of industrial psychology.
A major struggle in graduate school was to learn enough French and German
written language to enable one to read psychological articles in these
languages. While these exams were fair, they were the last time those languages
were used for psychology advancements. I have found knowledge of these languages
most useful when on foreign travel (including meetings of the International
Society of Psychology). Would it have been better to rely on undergraduate
language courses and brush up on their study just prior to the visits?
of Industrial Psychology
The reader is probably fully
aware that in the 1970's and 1980's the industrial psychologist was dealing
with a broader range of problems. This led to changing the name of our Division
to Industrial and Organizational Psychology. But this change was only a very
minor shift compared to what is needed.
I urge you to read "Chaos" by James Gleick. The book describes how
entirely new outlooks are now altering the sciences of mathematics, physics,
biology, weather, and many related fields. Preconceptions of matter are leading
to major revolutions in how to conceive our world. Reading about these evolving
outlooks presents all psychologists with new points of view. We must reconceive
what an employee is. We must reconceive what a manager is. We need new
conceptions of our criteria. And to be successful in these areas, we must
reconceive what a person is. Great new opportunities lie ahead of us.
Our research is now being limited by our conceptions of man. Many of our social
structures (pay systems, employee benefits, the Labor Department, the IRS,
educational systems, companies, unions) all rely on certain undeclared
assumptions about the nature of man. The psychologist along with other
scientists must lead in making new assumptions, which may seem like wild
"chaos" but will lead to new worlds. Our research is now making
Think of the great need for new outlooks as the countries of Europe (and other
continents) demand alternative conceptions of man. Our own country is faced with
many related problems: declining educational performance, drug usage, new family
structures, increasing crime, inadequate company/union solutions, overcrowded
prisons, crowded mental hospitals, etc. All great problems, but look at the
titles in the articles in our industrial psychology journals!
What is producing, forcing this inadequate response to the needs we have for
truly venturesome research? Could it be the Ph.D. thesis structure that requires
that the research from beginning to end be done in a year or two? Could it be
the college system that requires the faculty to put out many papers and books in
a short time? Can the professor risk a project that seems to alter some basic
principle we now hold about people? How many company psychologists can get their
officers to support a crazy new way of dealing with employees? How can these
psychologists get time to devote to reconceiving the nature of man? If our
research must be conducted within the confines of our present "people
structures" (offices, schools, plants, etc.), what is the likelihood that
changes can be studied? The physicists, etc. in Chaos could at least
manipulate the equipment within his own laboratory to make real contributions to
understanding the laws of matter! While the psychologist looks only for
"feasible" and "practical" settings for studies.
We must seek new perspectives on what we are doing. We cannot continue to walk
off with a smile from a validation study in which we predict less than 40% of
the variation in the performance measure. Being pleased with results greater
than chance is not an acceptable standard of performance.
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