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Raymond Bernard Cattell was a British and American psychologist known for his exploration of areas like the basic dimensions of personality and temperament, a range of cognitive abilities, the clinical dimensions of personality, patterns of group and social behavior and many more.
He was born in 1905 in Hilltop, a small town near Birmingham, England. His family was involved in inventing new parts of engines, automobiles and other machines. Quoting Cattell “1905 was a great year in which to be born. The airplane was just a year old. The Curies and Rutherford penetrated the heart of the atom and the mystery of its radiations, Binet launched the first intelligence test and Einstein the theory of relativity.” Cattell grew up with interests in science at the age of 5 years old, when his family moved to Torquay, Devon. At the age of 16 years old, in 1921 he was awarded a scholarship to study chemistry at the University of London.
As he was observing first-hand the destruction and human pain of World War I, he started getting interested to the idea of applying tools of science to the serious human problems that he saw around him. Because of that he decided to change the field of study and pursue a PhD in psychology at the University of London, which he received in 1929. While he was working on his PhD he accepted a position teaching and counseling in the Department of Education at Exeter University but he was disappointed since there were no resources to conduct research there. During his years in Exeter Cattell married Monica Rogers and had a son together. After his son was born they moved to Leicester where he organized one of England’s first child guidance clinics. It was in this time he finished the book “Under Sail through Red Devon”, which was his first.
In 1937, he moved with his family to the United States where he was invited by Edward Thorndike of the Columbia University. Thorndike recommended Cattell for the professorship at G. Stanley Hall of Clark University, in 1938. Later than a few years in Clark, he was invited to join Harvard University by Gordon Allport, in 1941. In Harvard he planned and began some of the research in personality that would become the foundation for much of his later work in this area.
After World War II, Cattell married a PhD student in mathematics in Radcliffe College, Alberta, Karen Schuettler. Over the years she worked with him on many aspects of his research. In 1945, Raymond Cattell moved to the University of Illinois because they were developing the first electronic computer and that made it possible for him to complete large scale factor analysis. He also founded the Laboratory of Personality Assessment and Group Behavior. In 1949, he and his wife founded The Institute for Personality and Ability Testing (IPAT). In 1960, Cattell organized the society of Multivariate Experimental Psychology. He retired from Illinois in 1973 and a few years later he built a house in Boulder, Colorado, where he wrote and published the results of a variety of research projects that had been left unfinished in Illinois.
He decided to move to Hawaii in 1977, since he loved the ocean and sailing. He continued working as a part-time professor and advisor at the University of Hawaii and he also served as adjunct faculty of the Hawaii School of Professional Psychology, which became the American School of Professional Psychology. Cattell married for the third time the clinical psychologist, Heather Birkett, who later carries out extensive research using the 16PF and other tests. During the last two decades of his life he published a variety of scientific articles, books of motivation, the scientific use of factor analysis, two volumes of personality and learning theory, the inheritance of personality and ability and co-edited a book on functional psychological testing as well as a revision of his handbook of Multivariate Experimental Psychology.
Raymond Cattell died at home in Honolulu on February 2, 1998, at the age of 93. He is buried at the valley of the temples on a hillside overlooking his beloved sea. During his 93 years Cattell left us with a very important scientific work concerning psychology. Cattell is credited with developing and influential theory of personality, creating new methods for statistical analysis and developing the theory of fluid and crystallized intelligence, which was later elaborated by his student, John Horn. The Cattell-Horn theory of fluid and crystallized intelligence (R. B. Cattell, 1941; 1950; 1971; Horn 1965, Horn & Cattell 1966a, 1966b) says that general intelligence is actually a conglomeration of perhaps 100 abilities working together in various ways in different people to bring out different intelligences.
Fluid abilities (GF) drive the individual’s ability to think and act quickly, solve problems and encode short-term memories. Fluid intelligence is grounded in psychological efficiency and is independent of education and acculturation (Horn, 1967). Encompassing crystallized abilities (GC) stems from learning and acculturation and is reflected in tests of knowledge, general information, use of language (vocabulary) and a wide variety of acquired skills (Horn & Cattell, 1967). Personality factors, motivation, and educational and cultural opportunity are central to its development, and it’s only indirectly dependent on the psychological influences that mainly affect fluid abilities.
According to Cattell, the weight of the statistical evidence supports the idea that intelligence is largely determined by genetics. He also supported that individuals with higher IQs tend to have fewer children than individuals with lower IQs. Furthermore he suggested that it would be prudent for more intelligent people to be encouraged to have more children and that less intelligent individuals should have fewer.
Concerning psychology, he found that concepts used by early psychological theorists tended to be subjective and poorly defined. Quoting Cattell, “Psychology appeared to be a jungle of confusing, conflicting, and arbitrary concepts. These pre-scientific theories doubtless contained insights which still surpass in refinement those depended upon by psychiatrists or psychologists today. But who knows, among the many brilliant ideas offered, which are the true ones? Some will claim that the statements of one theorist are correct but others will favor the views of another. Then there is no objective way of sorting out the truth except through scientific research.”
Psychologist Art Sweney said about Cattell’s methodology, “He was without exception the one man who made the most major strides in systemizing the field of behavioral science from all of its diverse facets into a real science based on empirical, replicable, and universal principles. Seldom has psychology had such a determined, systematic explorer dedicated not only to the basic search for scientific knowledge but also to the need to apply science for the benefit of all.”
Behavioral dimensions were too complex and interactive to fully understand one dimension in isolation, as Cattell believed. Multivariate analysis allowed for the study of real world situations like depression, divorce, loss and others that could not be manipulated in a laboratory. Cattell used multivariate research to three domains, such us the traits of personality or temperament, the motivation or dynamic traits, and the diverse dimensions of abilities. He then drew a comparison between these fundamental, underlying traits to the basic elements of the physical world that were discovered and presented in the periodic table of the elements.
In 1960, Cattell organized the Society of Multivariate Experimental Psychology and its journal, Multivariate Research. He believed it necessary to sample the widest possible range of variables in order to apply factor analysis to personality. Cattell specified three kinds of data. Firstly, the Life Data (or L-data) which involves collecting data from the individual natural, everyday life behaviors, measuring the characteristic behavior patterns in the real world. This could range from a number of traffic accidents or a number of parties attended each month to grade point average in school or a number of illnesses or divorces. Secondly, the Experimental Data (T-data) which involves reactions to standardized experimental situations created in a lab where a subject’s behavior can be objectively observed and measured. Thirdly, the Questionnaire Data (Q-data) which involve responses based on introspection by the individual about their own behavior and feelings.
William H Tucker and Barry Mehler criticized Cattell saying that he is known for laying out a mixture of Galtonian eugenics and theology called Beyondism. Cattell considered beyondism “a new morality from science” and his work in this area was published in the Pioneer Funds Mankind Quarterly.
At the age of 92, in 1997, Cattell was chosen by the American Psychology Association (APA) for its “Gold Medal Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Science of Psychology”, yet before the medal was presented, Mehler launched a campaign against him saying that he is sympathetic to racist and fascist ideas. The following day the New York Times reported that the two Cattell’s main critics were not psychologists. Some of his followers harbor the belief that the APA Gold Medal Award was delayed until his 92nd year because only then that the retirement or death of the many scientists he has offended during his career finally allowed Cattell’s “younger disciple” who had now reached positions of influence , to nominate him successfully.
Personalities react differently to the study of personality. To the people that are scientifically mined like Cattell, it is the ultimate challenge promising fantastic and intriguing complexity. To others the feeling of measurement and prediction in the field of human personality is a sacrilege and a threat. The person who objects on principle to studying, measuring, and using predictive laws about personality because “it must be forever unpredictable” is on shaky ground. For example, someone can probably predict about his wife with considerable accuracy what he will do when presented with various stimuli and situations. And, as usual, the ability to predict brings to her the ability to control. The increasing possibilities of prediction and control demand that psychologists must attend more seriously to the solution of old moral and philosophical dilemmas. Some questions that need an answer are, Is man a machine, albeit a very wonderful machine which reacts completely according to the casual laws, so that all our decisions are predetermined? Why should one object to making decisions like a chemical balance, which tell us faithfully which weight, is heavier?
Without a doubt Cattell was a great researcher and a psychologist. He devoted his career to his science area, and he left us a great amount of work. A lot of people support his ideas and some others don’t. It’s up to each person to decide whether he was a racist or he was just showing the results of his research.
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