A Timeline of Psychological Testing

  • 2200 B.C.E. Proficiency testing begins in China. The Emperor evaluates public officials every third year.
  • 1800 B.C.E. Babylonians develop astrology in order to interact with the gods and predict the future. Greeks later redefine astrology to predict and describe personality.
  • 500 B.C.E. Pythagoras begins practicing physiognomy to evaluate personality.
  • 400 B.C.E. Hippocrates introduces Humorology to the field of medicine for the treatment of physical and mental illness.
  • 400 B.C.E. Plato suggests people should find employment that is consistent with their abilities.
  • 175 B.C.E. Claudius Galenus designs experiments to show that it is the brain and the not the heart that is the seat of intellect.
  • 500 A.D. With the start of the Middle Ages, science takes a backseat to faith and superstition and the history of psychological testing is temporarily halted.
  • 1200 A.D. Interest in individual differences emerges as people begin to question whether those in “league with satan” did so voluntarily or involuntarily. Trials for witchery and sorcery were common.
  • 1265 A.D. Thomas Acquinas asserts that the notion of the human immortal soul should be replaced by the notion of a human capacity to think and reason.
  • 1550 A.D. The Renaissance witnesses a rebirth in philosophy and an appreciation for science.
  • 1698 A.D. Juan Huarte publishes The Tyral of Wits, the first book to propose a discipline of assessment.
  • 1770 A.D. The cause of philosophy and sciences advances with the writings of French, German, and English philosophers. One of these philosophers, Rene Descartes, proposes the mind-body question.
  • 1823 A.D. The Journal of Phrenology is founded to further the study of human abilities and human talents. Although proven unfounded by experimentation, phrenology proposed that human qualities are localized in concentrations of brain fiber that press outward on the skull.
  • 1869 A.D. Sir Francis Galton publishes a study of heredity and genius which pioneered a statistical technique that Karl Pearson would later call correlation.
  • 1879 A.D. In Leipzig, Germany, Wilhelm Wundt founds the first experimental psychology laboratory. Wundt’s structuralism relies heavily on a tool of assessment called introspection whereby subjects try to describe their conscious experience of a stimulus.
  • 1895 A.D. American psychologist James McKeen Cattell helped launch the beginning of mental testing. Cattell eventually founds Psychological Corporation, a company with the goal of “useful applications of psychology.”
  • 1900 A.D. Sigmund Freud publishes The Interpretation of Dreams which goes on to influence approaches to understanding personality for the next 50 years.
  • 1905 A.D. Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon publish a 30-item scale of intelligence designed to help classify schoolchildren in Paris schools. The development of the Binet-Simon Intelligence Scale is largely recognized as launching a new era in measurement.
  • 1908 A.D. Frank Parsons opens the Vocational Bureau of Boston begins offering career guidance to young adults.
  • 1914 A.D. World War I brings about a boom in psychological testing as thousands of American recruits are screened for intellectual and emotional functioning.
  • 1919 A.D. Robert Woodworth publishes the Personal Data Sheet to help identify Army recruits susceptible to ‘shell shock.’
  • 1921 A.D. Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach publishes his famous monograph, Psychodiagnostics, which would lead to the development of the Rorschach Inkblot Test.
  • 1926 A.D. The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is developed and administered for the first time.
  • 1927 A.D. Carl Spearman publishes a two-factor theory of intelligence in which he postulates the existence of a general intellectual ability factor and specific components of that general ability.
  • 1938 A.D. Mental tests have reached the status of big business. According to the 1938 Mental Measurements Yearbook, at least 4,000 psychological tests are in print.
  • 1939 A.D. David Wechsler introduces the Wechsler-Bellevue Intelligence Scale which was designed to measure adult intelligence. Today, multiple versions of these tests are in publication and are the most popular instruments used to measure the intelligence of children and adults.
  • 1943 A.D. Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory was published.
  • 1949 A.D. The first version to the Wechsler Intelligence Tests for children was published.
  • 1949 A.D. The 16PF Questionnaire, 1st Edition is released for public use.
  • 1955 A.D. The first version of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Tests was published.
  • 1962 A.D. Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Meyers publish the Meyers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
  • 1962 A.D. Warren T. Norman publishes his first article over the Big Five Personality Factors.
  • 1970 A.D. John L. Holland publishes the first version of the Self Directed Search (SDS) for consumer use. The inventory was intended to help individuals identify careers that are congruent with their personalities.


DuBois, P. H. (1970). A history of psychological testing. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Foxcroft, C. & Roodt, G. (2005). An Introduction to psychological assessment in the South African context. Cape Town: Oxford University Press Southern Africa.

Gregory, R. J. (2004). Psychological testing: History, principles, and applications. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.




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