Psychologizing School Problems: The Science of Personality Adjustment in Interwar U.S.

by Huimin Wang

Apr 28, 2020

This research report is part of my dissertation project, "Creating the Well-Adjusted Citizen: The Human Sciences and Public Schools in the United States, WWI - 1950," which examines the ideas of psychological adjustment and shifting meanings of the "well-adjusted citizen" in the human sciences and in public schools. The goal of the dissertation is to explore the implications of adjustment thinking upon the scrutiny of emotional fitness among its citizenry in the United States. This report focuses specifically on how human scientists and educators approached the interpretation or measurement of personality in the interwar years. I argue that within scientific constructions of personality, there existed two tendencies: one sought to quantify and standardize personality into separable traits or measurable quotient; the other treated personality as a dynamic and holistic process in the context of individuals' interactions with culture. Both tendencies bore epistemological and political implications in the history of psychology and schooling. Ultimately, the ways in which experts and educators conceptualized personality shaped ideas of human differences and functioned to reinforce hierarchical understandings of human nature.

Linked Data show/hide