PY 200, Dr. Pivik
The field of psychology has experienced problems with inequalities and biases throughout history. Psychology has experienced these phenomena prominently through perpetuating gender biases, overlooking the role of objectivity in intelligence tests, and by misinterpreting data (when they include personal biases that are not necessarily consciously apparent) to support otherwise unfounded or flawed theories. Psychology has been an avenue for inequality in multiple instances through history and this analysis will look at different instances throughout the field of psychology in relation to how psychology has been used as an avenue of inequality. The problems of inequality still exist in psychology today, but by examining previous occurrences and learning from them modern psychologists may seek necessary changes in the field.
Historical Analysis of Inequality and Biases in Psychology
The concept of inequality has existed since the beginning of civilization. Some view inequality as a byproduct of civilization that occurs when the tendency for some to exist more comfortably than others becomes a rule instead of an exception. A famous quote by Aristotle stated: “The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal.” The predecessors of modern psychology (philosophers such as Aristotle that pondered multiple facets of society) questioned inequality a millennia before it was a common topic in modern academia. When concepts have garnered over a millennium of academic preponderance, they tend to become fields of study (or at the very least integral parts of existing fields and/or disciplines.) Sadly, inequality is almost always supported by the institutions in which it exists and globalization has helped to show the universal existence of this phenomena and the need to address it. Inequality has existed in the field of psychology since its infancy, and to some extent it will most certainly persist through the foreseeable future.
Psychology is a burgeoning field of science that has only possessed widespread acceptance from academia for a little over a century. Early psychologists possessed (at best) broken and misinformed knowledge in relation to the biological processes of the brain, so they instead focused mainly on clinical therapy and testing hypotheses through experiments on observable behaviors and generalizing the results into theories and concepts. The new status of psychology led people to question what enriching contributions it could offer to society. One early response to this question was the concept of intelligence testing, or psychometrics as it later became known. The idea of intelligence testing was seemingly scientific, but it lacked the informational support to provide unbiased means of testing that were universally applicable. One of the first attempts at testing intelligence was Sir Francis Galton’s test that involved testing the subject’s reaction times, other various sensory measurements, and factoring in the social distinction of the subject. The first attempt at measuring intelligence was obviously mired with an unequal bias towards subjects of high social standing, and in reality the only thing it tested was the speed in which neural pathways transferred sensory input. How would a physically handicapped subject who is otherwise mentally sound (such as the globally known physicist Stephen Hawking who is arguably one of the most intelligent physicists, or humans for that matter, alive) fair when being administered Galton’s test? Henry Goddard is credited with translating and bringing the Binet scale to America (which is an intelligence test that still persists today in a modified form.) Goddard is also credited for starting one of the first laboratories that studied mental retardation during his early teaching career, being a proponent of special education, and supporting social policy