WW1 was an interesting time for the field of psychology. In the early 1900’s psychology got focused on aptitude tests and tests to determine mental capabilities. These tests would single out the mentally deficient or gifted. Many famous names in psychology popped up then, like Lewis Terman, Henry H. Goddard, and Robert Yerkes. These famous people, and others made up a whole team to construct mental tests for recruits in WW1. They came up with the army alpha and army beta test. The alpha test was for literate men who could speak English. It had things like analogies, math problems, and multiple choice for example. It’s biggest flaw was that much of the material was on popular culture! It would be like quizzing people on celebrities today on a mental examination! The army beta test was a non-verbal test for illiterate recruits, non-English speakers, and people who failed the alpha test. It had tasks like figuring out mazes on paper, drawing missing parts of a picture and a picture completion test among others. The tests helped determine who was too mentally deficient to be in the army, who would be sent to do very simple tasks up to who should be selected to be officers. The alpha and beta tests would be done in a group setting with a main instructor and orderlies to monitor the test takers. They were allowed to help people with short phrases like “fix it” and “hurry up!” If people failed the alpha and beta test, they were tested individually on another mental test that used the Stanford-Binet Scale. Most likely, those men were classified as mentally deficient. Check out this cool primary source on it!
Psychological Examining in the United States Army (It contains pictures of the test materials and detailed instructions on how to give and score the tests along with statistics on how well men did on it. It also talks about contributions to the tests by famous psychologists like Goddard and Terman.)
(The Team that made the alpha and beta tests)
(Left: Picture completion section of the beta test Right: Men taking either test with orderlies)