Psychology and Industrial Efficiency
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
The Riverside Press Cambridge
This book corresponds to a German book, which I published a few monthsago, under the title Psychologie und Wirlschaftsleben: Ein Beitragzur angewandten Experimental-Psychologie (Leipzig: J.A. Barth). It isnot a translation, as some parts of the German volume have beenabbreviated or entirely omitted and other parts have been enlarged andsupplemented. Yet the essential substance of the two books isidentical.
I. APPLIED PSYCHOLOGY
II. THE DEMANDS OF PRACTICAL LIFE
III. MEANS AND ENDS
I. THE BEST POSSIBLE MAN
IV. VOCATION AND FITNESS
V. SCIENTIFIC VOCATIONAL GUIDANCE
VI. SCIENTIFIC MANAGEMENT
VII. THE METHODS OF EXPERIMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY
VIII. EXPERIMENTS IN THE INTEREST OF ELECTRIC RAILWAY SERVICE
IX. EXPERIMENTS IN THE INTEREST OF SHIP SERVICE
X. EXPERIMENTS IN THE INTEREST OF TELEPHONE SERVICE
XI. CONTRIBUTIONS FROM MEN OF AFFAIRS
XII. INDIVIDUALS AND GROUPS
II. THE BEST POSSIBLE WORK
XIII. LEARNING AND TRAINING
XIV. THE ADJUSTMENT OF TECHNICAL TO PSYCHICAL CONDITIONS
XV. THE ECONOMY OF MOVEMENT
XVI. EXPERIMENTS ON THE PROBLEM OF MONOTONY
XVII. ATTENTION AND FATIGUE
XVIII. PHYSICAL AND SOCIAL INFLUENCES ON THE WORKING POWER
III. THE BEST POSSIBLE EFFECT
XIX. THE SATISFACTION OF ECONOMIC DEMANDS
XX. EXPERIMENTS ON THE EFFECTS OF ADVERTISEMENTS
XXI. THE EFFECT OF DISPLAY
XXII. EXPERIMENTS WITH REFERENCE TO ILLEGAL IMITATION
XXIII. BUYING AND SELLING
XXIV. THE FUTURE DEVELOPMENT OF ECONOMIC PSYCHOLOGY
Our aim is to sketch the outlines of a new science which is tointermediate between the modern laboratory psychology and the problemsof economics: the psychological experiment is systematically to beplaced at the service of commerce and industry. So far we have onlyscattered beginnings of the new doctrine, only tentative efforts anddisconnected attempts which have started, sometimes in economic, andsometimes in psychological, quarters. The time when an exactpsychology of business life will be presented as a closed andperfected system lies very far distant. But the earlier the attentionof wider circles is directed to its beginnings and to the importanceand bearings of its tasks, the quicker and the more sound will be thedevelopment of this young science. What is most needed to-day at thebeginning of the new movement are clear, concrete illustrations whichdemonstrate the possibilities of the new method. In the followingpages, accordingly, it will be my aim to analyze the results ofexperiments which have actually been carried out, experimentsbelonging to many different spheres of economic life. But thesedetached experiments ought always at least to point to a connectedwhole; the single experiments will, therefore, always need a generaldiscussion of the principles as a background. In the interest of sucha wider perspective we may at first enter into some preparatoryquestions of theory. They may serve as an introduction which is tolead us to the actual economic life and the present achievements ofexperimental psychology.
It is well known that the modern psychologists only slowly and veryreluctantly approached the apparently natural task of rendering usefulservice to practical life. As long as the study of the mind wasentirely dependent upon philosophical or theological speculation, nohelp could be expected from such endeavors to assist in the dailywalks of life. But half a century has passed since the study ofconsciousness was switched into the tracks of exact scientificinvestigation. Five decades ago the psychologists began to devotethemselves to the most minute description of the mental experiencesand to explain the mental life in a way which was modeled after thepattern of exact natural sciences. Their aim was no longer tospeculate about the soul, but to find the psychical elements and theconstant laws which control their connections. Psychology becameexperimental and physiological. For more than thirty years thepsychologists have also had their workshops. Laboratories forexperimental psychology have grown up in all civilized countries, andthe new method has been applied to one group of mental traits afteranother. And yet we stand before the surprising fact that all themanifold results of the new science have remained book knowledge,detached from any practical interests. Only in the last ten years dowe find systematic efforts to apply the experimental results ofpsychology to the needs of society.
It is clear that the reason for this late beginning is not anunwillingness of the last century to make theoretical knowledgeserviceable to the demands of life. Every one knows, on the contrary,that the glorious advance of the natural sciences became at the sametime a triumphal march of technique. Whatever was brought to light inthe laboratories of the physicists and chemists, of the physiologistsand pathologists, was quickly transformed into achievements ofphysical and chemical industry, of medicine and hygiene, ofagriculture and mining and transportation. No realm of the externalsocial life remained untouched. The scientists, on the other hand,felt that the far-reaching practical effect which came from theirdiscoveries exerted a stimulating influence on the theoreticalresearches themselves. The pure search for truth and knowledge was notlowered when the electrical waves were harnessed for wirelesstelegraphy, or the Roentgen rays were forced into the service ofsurgery. The knowledge of nature and the mastery of nature have alwaysbelonged together.
The persistent hesitation of the psychologists to make similarpractical use of their experimental results has therefore come fromdifferent causes. The students of mental life evidently had thefeeling that quiet, undisturbed research was needed for the newscience of psychology in order that a certain maturity might bereached before a contact with the turmoil of practical life would beadvisable. The sciences themselves cannot escape injury if theirresults are forced into the rush of the day before the fundamentalideas have been cleared up, the methods of investigation really tried,and an ample supply of facts collected. But this very justifiedreluctance becomes a real danger if it grows into an instinctive fearof coming into contact at all with practical life. To be sure, in anysingle case there may be a difference of opinion as to when the righttime has come and when the inner consolidation of a new science issufficiently advanced for the technical service, but it ought to beclear that it is not wise to wait until the scientists have settledall the theoretical problems involved. True progress in everyscientific field means that the problems become multiplied and thatever new questions keep coming to the surface. If the psychologistswere to refrain from practical application until the theoreticalresults of their laboratories need no supplement, the time for appliedpsychology would never come. Whoever looks without prejudice on thedevelopment of modern psychology ought to acknowledge that thehesitancy which was justified in the beginning would to-day beinexcusable lack of initiative. For the sciences of the mind too, thetime has come when theory and practice must support each other. Anexceedingly large mass of facts has been gathered, the methods havebecome refined and differentiated, and however much may still be underdiscussion, the ground common to all is ample enough to build upon.
Another important reason for the slowness of practical progress wasprobably this. When the psychologists began to work with the newexperimental methods, their most immediate concern was to get rid ofmere speculation and to take hold of actual facts. Hence they regardedthe natural sciences as their model, and, together with theexperimental method which distinguishes scientific work, thecharacteristic goal of the sciences was accepted too. This scientificgoal is always the attainment of general laws; and so it happened thatin the first decades after the foundation of psychologicallaboratories the general laws of the mind absorbed the entireattention and interest of the investigators. The result of such anattitude was, that we learned to understand the working of the typicalmind, but that all the individual variations were almost neglected.When the various individuals differed in their mental behavior, thesedifferences appeared almost as disturbances which the psychologistshad to eliminate in order to find the general laws which hold forevery mind. The studies were accordingly confined to the generalaverages of mental experience, while the variations from such averageswere hardly included in the scientific account. In earlier centuries,to be sure, the interest of the psychological observers had been givenalmost entirely to the rich manifoldness of human characters andintelligences and talents. In the new period of experimental work,this interest was taken as an indication of the unscientific fanciesof the earlier age, in which the curious and the anecdotal attractedthe view. The new science which was to seek the laws was to overcomesuch popular curiosity. In this sign experimental psychology hasconquered. The fundamental laws of the ideas and of the attention, ofthe memory and of the will, of the feeling and of the emotions, havebeen elaborated. Yet it slowly became evident that such one-sidedness,however necessary it may have been at the beginning, would make anypractical application impossible. In practical life we never have todo with what is common to all human beings, even when we are toinfluence large masses; we have to deal with personalities whosemental life is characterized by particular traits of nationality, orrace, or vocation, or sex, or age, or special interests, or otherfeatures by which they differ from the average mind which thetheoretical psychologist may construct as a type. Still morefrequently we have to act with reference to smaller groups or tosingle individuals whose mental physiognomy demands carefulconsideration. As long as experimental psychology remained essentiallya science of the mental laws, common to all human beings, anadjustment to the practical demands of daily life could hardly come inquestion. With such general laws we could never have mastered theconcrete situations of society, because we should have had to leaveout of view the fact that there are gifted and ungifted, intelligentand stupid, sensitive and obtuse, quick and slow, energetic and weakindividuals.
But in recent years a complete change can be traced in our science.Experiments which refer to these individual differences themselveshave been carried on by means of the psychological laboratory, atfirst reluctantly and in tentative forms, but within the last tenyears the movement has made rapid progress. To-day we have apsychology of individual variations from the point of view of thepsychological laboratory. This development of schemes to comparethe differences between the individuals by the methods of experimentalscience was after all the most important advance toward the practicalapplication of psychology. The study of the individual differencesitself is not applied psychology, but it is the presupposition withoutwhich applied psychology would have remained a phantom.
THE DEMANDS OF PRACTICAL LIFE
While in this way the progress of psychology itself and thedevelopment of the psychology of individual differences favored thegrowth of applied psychology, there arose at the same time anincreasing demand in the midst of practical life. Especially theteachers and the physicians, later the lawyers as well, looked forhelp from exact psychology. The science of education and instructionhad always had some contact with the science of the mind, as thepedagogues could never forget that the mental development of the childhas to stand in the centre of educational thought. For a long whilepedagogy was still leaning on a philosophical psychology, after thatold-fashioned study of the soul had been given up in psychologicalquarters. At last, in the days of progressive experimental psychology,the time came when the teachers under the pressure of their new needsbegan to inquire how far the modern laboratory could aid them in theclassroom. The pedagogical psychology of memory, of attention, ofwill, and of intellect was systematically worked up by men withpractical school interests. We may notice