-Contributed by Vanessa Facemire. 

Ever wonder what your personality says about you? Well, there’s a test for that. What about your IQ or achievement? There’s a test for that too. Would you like to be able to have someone tell you what career to choose? Well, you’re in luck because there’s a test for that too! For more than a century, psychologists have designed and administered tests and measures to assess many different kinds of human abilities and characteristics.

The history of psychological testing is long and varied. It has roots in ancient China; where the emperor instated proficiency testing on topics such as civil law and fiscal policies for public officials. From phrenology to vocational testing, scientists and practitioners have been fascinated with developing new ways to “measure the mind”. Historically, psychological tests have been used in very diverse ways across a variety of settings.

IMLS_Logo_BlackThe Cummings Center for the History of Psychology is featuring a new exhibit called “Measuring the Mind” that showcases some early ways that psychologists have measured different abilities and characteristics. Funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the “Museums for America” program, the exhibit gives visitors a chance to see and interact with tests and measures dating from the nineteenth century to the present.

The exhibit features a 1921 home economics test for 8th grade girls that measures knowledge of “household arts” such as clothing care and repair, childcare, and budgeting. The 1919 Woodsworth Personal Data Sheet, which measures potential emotional difficulties among WWI recruits, was specifically designed to identify soldiers who might be at risk for shell shock, which we now know as post-traumatic stress disorder. A black-and-white 1935 film depicting the different tests used to measure mechanical aptitude among potential employees is also highlighted.


The exhibit also features a variety of interactive displays. Want to test your mental acuity? Check out the weights discrimination test used in the nineteenth and early twentieth century as a way of examining the relationship between the physical world and the mental world.


Do you wonder about your motor learning ability? Check out the finger maze, developed in 1928, used to select employees for jobs requiring fine motor skills.

Finger Maze 2

Want to measure your intelligence? Check out the form board intelligence test from the nineteenth century and time yourself to see how quickly you can complete the board. Form boards were used in a variety of situations including: measuring mental capacity and nonverbal intelligence in children, as part of a battery of tests used on immigrants at Ellis Island, and during WWI to test intelligence among illiterate recruits.

Form Board 1

Visitors can also test their intelligence through the Army Alpha interactive display. Developed in WWI, the Army Alpha was the first intelligence test designed to be administered to large groups. This test was used to test new army recruits and by the end of the war, more than 1 million recruits had been tested.

Army Alpha

For more information about these tests and many more pay a visit to the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology to check out our “Measuring the Mind” exhibit. You can also schedule a research visit to examine our vast collection of psychological tests and measures.


- Contributed by Lizette Royer Barton with digitization assistance from Jodi Kearns.

Francis Cecil Sumner (1895-1954) was the first African American to earn a doctoral degree in psychology. He earned his degree on June 14, 1920 under G. Stanley Hall at Clark University upon defending his dissertation, “Psychoanalysis of Freud and Adler.”


Francis Cecil Sumner in his doctoral robes.  Robert V. Guthrie papers

Francis Cecil Sumner in his doctoral robes.
Robert V. Guthrie papers


Listen to Kenneth Clark comment on Sumner’s high standards when it came to education at the link below.


Many of us recognize Sumner’s name because he was a “first.” However, it could be said that the most important part of his legacy was his work in establishing the Psychology Department at Howard University and the teaching and training of numerous African American psychologists.

Sumner joined the faculty at Howard University in 1928. As was common in many historically black colleges, psychology courses were taught in the education and philosophy departments. Sumner believed in order to properly train Black psychologists an independent department of psychology was of the utmost importance. In 1930, with the support of Howard’s president, Sumner established the psychology department and was promoted to full professor and head of the department that same year.

He was assisted in the department by Frederick P. Watts, a graduate student, and Max Meenes, a professor of psychology and fellow graduate of the Clark University doctoral program.


Listen to Max Meenes discuss the start of Howard’s psychology department below.


Howard offered training up to the Master’s level with a focus on laboratory and experimental psychology.


In the audio clip below Max Meenes discusses why they kept the program at the Master’s level and how they prepared students for doctoral work elsewhere.


Kenneth B. Clark, Mamie Phipps Clark, Max Meenes, unidentified. 1957.

Kenneth B. Clark, Mamie Phipps Clark, Max Meenes, unidentified. 1957.
Robert V. Guthrie papers


Well-known graduates of the Howard University Psychology Department include Kenneth and Mamie Phipps Clark, both of whom went on to earn doctoral degrees from Columbia University. Kenneth Clark in particular stressed the influence Sumner had on him while at Howard and the importance of his time in the department.


Listen to Kenneth Clark talk about Sumner’s influence on his own education and career as a psychologist. 


To learn more about Francis Cecil Sumner please check out Robert V. Guthrie’s seminal book, “Even the Rat was White: A Historical View of Psychology.” And to learn even more pay a visit to the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology and take a look at the Robert V. Guthrie papers, which include the incredible sound recordings featured above.

A Tribute to Narcisse Blood

- Contributed by Rhonda Rinehart

We mourn the sudden and terrible loss of Narcisse Blood and his colleagues on February 10, 2015.  Narcisse became a friend of the CCHP back in 2006 when he took part in the “Abraham Maslow and The Blackfoot Experience” two-day conference hosted by CCHP.

Narcisse immediately captured us with his dedication to broadening understanding of the Blackfoot way of life and his deep sincerity in doing so – from explaining Blackfoot storytelling practices to the importance of repatriation efforts.  His determination, sincerity and passion for cultural research were tempered with a sense of humor and warmth that will not soon be forgotten.

Blackfoot Announcement Flier revised

Our hearts go out to Narcisse’s family and friends, his professional acquaintances and all of those in the Blackfoot community who have lost a talented and generous comrade.


- Contributed by Franklin Fitch.

Wilhelm Wundt (1832- 1920) and William James (1842 – 1910) are considered by many to be two of the most central figures in the establishment of experimental psychology. Both saw the discipline through its early stages as it branched off from the philosophical discourse of the time and became a field of its own. Both  established psychology labs during the very same year. These labs were the first of their kind, focused on the measurement and analysis of sensation, perception, and introspection. The historical narratives of these two early psychologists have been intertwined, due both to their historical proximity to one another and the role each filled in building the foundation of a discipline that was new in name, but had in truth existed for thousands of years. Wundt founded the first official laboratory and institute for psychology in Germany. James is said to have taught the first psychology course in the United States and published one of the first American textbooks in the field. Both laid the groundwork for a field of science that now spans the globe. Taking all that into account, the text at hand becomes particularly significant. Housed within the Cummings Center’s collection is this particularly spectacular artifact, one that establishes a material link between these two giants of modern thought.

front cover of Wundt book

The book is a first edition copy of Wilhelm Wundt’s Vorlesungen uber die Menschen- und Tierseele which translates to “Lectures about Human and Animal Psychology.” Wundt is recognized as a pioneer of experimental and comparative psychology.

spine of Wundt book

spine of Wundt book

The artifact itself is beautiful; the pages are thick and smell of years past (and are in good shape, all things considered). The interior portion of the binding is covered in a web of red and blue ink the likes of which I have never seen. It’s a wonderful example of turn of the 20th century craftsmanship and attention to detail.

inside front cover of Wundt book

inside front cover of Wundt book

Aesthetics aside, this copy has something that makes it extremely special. This particular copy belonged to William James himself!

William James' signature with date from first pages of Wundt book

William James’ signature with date from first pages of Wundt book

One can almost feel the weight of history when turning through the pages. On the back page, there is a list of annotations written by James. The staggering significance of the piece shines through when you flip to one of the pages mentioned in James’ personal index.

index of annotations in William James' handwriting

index of annotations in William James’ handwriting

For example, on page 136 James has written a paragraph worth of reaction to Wundt’s ideas. He notes, “… from the entire mass of comparative measurements absolute norms emerge.”

James' annotations of Wundt book, pages 136-137

James’ annotations of Wundt book, pages 136-137 (click to enlarge)

I feel honored to have the privilege of examining and commenting on this text. I can think of few artifacts that have such a personal and historical significance to the field of psychology. One founder of the field commenting on the work of another. This unique text, housed in the Cumming’s Center collection, serves as a tangible record of their interaction with each other. While the text is in many ways in remarkable condition, the pages are separating significantly from the binding. As always, your donations help preserve artifacts just like this one!

- Contributed by Adam Beckler.

Richard Walk (1920-1997) is best known for his research with the visual cliff, which he invented in collaboration with Eleanor J. Gibson. However, Walk had a curious mind and a wide range of interests that extended well beyond the visual cliff. The full scope of his work is documented in the Richard D. Walk papers, which are now open for research at the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology.

Richard D. Walk, 1960s

Richard D. Walk, 1960s

The visual cliff apparatus, developed by Walk and Gibson at Cornell University in the 1960s, was used to study depth perception in humans and animals. The visual cliff created the illusion of a cliff by connecting transparent glass to an opaque patterned surface. On one side of the apparatus, the patterned cloth is immediately below the glass, and on the other side it is several feet below the glass. Walk’s experiments studied depth perception in human infants and a variety of animal species by examining the factors that determined whether or not the subject would cross the threshold of the “cliff.”

Baby on Visual Cliff

Baby on Visual Cliff

Goat on Visual Cliff

Goat on Visual Cliff

Interested in all kinds of visual perception, Walk studied how humans perceived emotion in body language. He conducted experiments in which the subjects would try to identify emotions based on body language alone.

Emotion Perception Image

Emotion Perception Image

Emotion Perception Image

Emotion Perception Image

Walk, an Army veteran, also studied fear and anxiety in Army paratroopers during test jumps. Not content to take a hands-off approach to his research, Walk himself performed a test jump in order to fully understand the process.

The Richard D. Walk papers contain research and writing on a wide variety of subjects, including depth perception, art perception, emotion perception, fear and anxiety in paratroopers and athletes before competition, as well as experiments in wine tasting. The papers also document Walk’s time as a professor and student mentor, his published works, and his correspondence with other psychologists. Search the finding aid for more information.

-Contributed by Cori Iannaggi.

As a volunteer for the CCHP, I have had the opportunity to do a variety of different projects. When I first started in the summer of 2012, the first task assigned to me was to go through and identify the uncataloged objects within the collection. To me this was like being a kid in the candy store! I would open up the boxes and find all of these cool and unusual objects – some of them being objects I was familiar with, but most of them being objects I had no idea what they were. As undergraduate in psychology, I went into this project thinking I was going to be able to identify these objects with no problem, but it soon became apparent to me that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did (shocker?…not really).

As I began going through the collection, I found myself coming across a lot of the same items, like shock boxes, timers, lenses, and of course, tuning forks (it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t come across at least one a day)! While all of these regular finds were intriguing and valuable to the field of psychology, it was the days that I came across the abnormal and curious that were the best.

Lens kit #329b from Walter R. Miles and Catharine Cox Miles papers

Lens kit #329b
from Walter R. Miles and Catharine Cox Miles papers

Master shocker unit #419 Donated by Ryan Tweney / Bowling Green University

Master shocker unit #419
Donated by Ryan Tweney / Bowling Green University

Tuning Forks!

Tuning Forks!

Fast forward two years later, and I am now a graduate student in the Kent State University Library and Information Science program specializing in museum studies. Even though the collection project I did only lasted one summer, I regularly thought about how much fun I had working with the collection, and of all the wonderful objects I was in contact with on a daily basis. It then dawned on me that the fascinating and unusual objects I found would make a terrific exhibit. This would give me a chance to work with the collection again and allow the public the opportunity to see objects they normally wouldn’t have the chance of seeing (win-win in my eyes!).

Cori Iannaggi with her Cabinet of Wonder

Cori Iannaggi with her Cabinet of Wonder

Located in the CCHP’s reading room, Cabinet of Wonders highlights all of my favorite finds from the collection project back in 2012. The exhibit is broken in to two sections:

  • The Unusual – Highlighting the exciting, surprising, and simply put, cool objects, found in the collection.
  • The Unknown – A selection of objects I was unable to identify during my research.

The unknown section also gives visitors an opportunity to share their psychology knowledge with me by encouraging them to identify the unknown objects on exhibit. A notebook was placed outside the case and provides space for visitors to tell me anything they know about the objects I could not identify. Once the objects are identified, they will be removed and another object will be added. If you are unable to make it to the exhibit, we will also be posting pictures of the unknown objects on the CCHP Facebook and Twitter pages in the hopes of increasing the odds of identification.

In fact, why not start now?! Do you know what this object is and how it’s related to the field of psychology?

Unidentified Object #212

Unidentified Object #212

Games of Therapy

contributed by Jodi Kearns

Can a board game save your life?

The Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. Popular Psychology Magazine Collection is a gift that keeps on giving. While digitizing the collection, I noticed order forms with vague descriptions and testimonials for three therapeutic games by the Kimm Company on the back covers of some 1977 and 1978 issues of Human Behavior.

The Ungame (for ages 8 to 108) with its tagline “Tell it like it is” suggests that by playing, you can give your friends a better understanding about who you are. “Can a game save a life? Prevent a bad marriage? Bring a father and son closer together?” Well, the publishers do not promise these results in every case, but claim to have received “cards, letters and even phone calls on a daily basis which prove The Ungame can and has improved the quality of life for thousands of people.” Do favors and give compliments and say what you really feel.

The Ungame Advertisement 1970s

Roll-a-Role (for ages 8 to 108) claims to be “A Life-Changing Experience!” that is entertaining, enlightening, non-competitive, and non-threatening. It’s a game of communication, dramatization, and improvisation by becoming new people and acting out situations rolled by the dice prompts and a talk topic.

Roll-a-Role Advertisement 1970s

Social Security (for ages 6 to 106) is about “getting along with people” by sharing opinions, hopes, humor, and dreams. Its disclaimer indicates no affiliation to a government program, but that playing the game offers a tax-free path to being socially secure. Players can visit places on the board like the Dynamite Solutions Juice Bar and the Feelings Fruitstand. Play this game for a “revelation in expression.”

Social Security Advertisement 1970s

Social Security Advertisement 1970s

People who have recently played these 1970s therapy games rank them between 1½ and 2½ stars out of 10 on boardgamegeek.com. You can’t win ‘em all, (so I guess it’s appropriate that these games of therapy are designed to have no losers.)

The CCHP would be pleased to archive your copies of these Kimm Company games. Kimm Company was a Division of Manson Western Corporation in Los Angeles, California. Please contact us at ahap@uakron.edu to initiate the donation process.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 37 other followers