Raymond B. Cattell

(March 20, 1905 – February 2, 1998)
British and American Psychologist



  • University College, London, B.S. with first-class honors in chemistry (1921-1924)
  • King’s College, Ph.D. in psychology (1924-1929)
  • University College, London, masters in education (1932); honorary doctor of science (1939)


  • Exeter University, Lecturer in Psychology (1927-1932)
  • Advisory Psychologist, Dartington Hall progressive school (1927-1932)
  • Director, City of Leicester Child Guidance Clinic (1932-1936)
  • Columbia University, Research Associate (1937) (A position offered to him by E. L. Thorndike)
  • Clark University, G. Stanley Hall Professor of Genetic Psychology (1938-1941)
  • Harvard University, lecturer (1941-1945)
  • University of Illinois, Research Professor of Psychology (1945-1973)
  • First president of the Society for Multivariate Experimental Psychology (1960 and 1961)
  • Director, Institute for Research on Morality and Adjustment, Boulder, Colorado (1974-1978)
  • University of Hawaii and Hawaii School of Professional Psychology, adjunct professorships (1978- )
  • Numerous awards, including:  Educational Testing Service Award for Distinguished Service to Measurement (1982); Dobzhansky Memorial Award of the Behavior Genetics Association (1986); Lewis M. Terman and Maude A. Merrill Award, Riverside Publishing Company (1994); Lifetime Contribution Award, Division 5 of the American Psychological Association (1997); Honorary doctorates from the Hawaii School of Professional Psychology (1986) and the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology (1987). Cattell was also offered the American Psychological Foundation Gold Medal Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Science of Psychology (1997) but declined the award after a controversy.

Major Contributions

  • The Cattell-Horn Theory of Fluid and Crystallized Intelligences
  • Application of advanced statistical techniques to the study of intelligence
  • Author or co-author of more than 500 books and articles

Ideas and Interests

Raymond Bernard Cattell’s substantial contributions to psychology fall into three areas: He is credited with developing an 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 most renowned student, John Horn.

The Cattell-Horn theory of fluid and crystallized intelligence (R. B. Cattell, 1941, 1950; 1971; Horn, 1965; Horn & Cattell, 1966a, 1966b) proposes that general intelligence is actually a conglomeration of perhaps 100 abilities working together in various ways in different people to bring out different intelligences.  Gf-Gc theory separates these abilities broadly into, first, two different sets of abilities that have quite different trajectories over the course of development from childhood through adulthood.

Fluid abilities ( Gf ) drive the individual’s ability to think and act quickly, solve novel problems, and encode short-term memories. They have been described as the source of intelligence that an individual uses when he or she doesn’t already know what to do. Fluid intelligence is grounded in physiological efficiency, and is thus relatively independent of education and acculturation (Horn, 1967). The other factor, 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 is only indirectly dependent on the physiological influences that mainly affect fluid abilities.

Raymond Cattell held a hereditarian view of intelligence, arguing that the weight of the statistical evidence supports the idea that intelligence is largely determined by genetics.  He also noted that individuals with higher IQs tend to have fewer children than individuals with lower IQs. Therefore, 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.  Although hardly a new idea (see our profiles of Robert Yerkes, Charles Darwin and Francis Galton, as well as our related Hot Topic), these views excited a great deal of controversy (Horn, 2000).

In 1997, the American Psychological Foundation decided to grant him the Gold Medal Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Science of Psychology, an honor that had been bestowed on only 12 other psychologists since the award was created in 1956. Some psychologists objected to this, alleging that some of Cattell’s views were racist. Cattell responded with an open letter the American Psychological Association (APA), asserting that some of the offending statements had been made when he was a young man in the 1930s, and that he had amended them in later years. He further contended that other controversial statements had been taken out of context and grossly misinterpreted (R. B. Cattell, 1997). Although many psychologists voiced their support for Cattell, the controversy was never fully resolved, as Cattell died only two months after he wrote his open letter (Gillis, 2000). Regardless of one’s perspective on this controversy, the unresolved nature of the events left a black mark on the history of psychology that will never be removed.

(Raymond Cattell is not related to James McKeen Cattell or Psyche Cattell).

Selected Publications

Cattell, R.B. (1950). Personality: A systematic, theoretical, and factual study. New York: McGraw Hill.

Cattell, R.B. (Ed.). (1966). Handbook of multivariate experimental psychology (2nd ed.). Chicago: Rand McNally.

Cattell, R.B. (1971). Abilities: Their structure, growth, and action. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Cattell, R.B. (1982). The inheritance of personality and ability: Research methods and findings. New York: Academic Press.

Cattell, R.B. (1987). Intelligence: Its structure, growth, and action. New York: Elsevier.


Cattell, R.B. (1941). Some theoretical issues in adult intelligence testng. Psychological Bulletin, 38, 592.

Cattell, R. B. (1950). Personality. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Cattell,R.B. (1971). Abilities: Their structure, growth and action. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.

Cattell, R. B. (1997).  An open letter to the American Psychological Association.

Gillis, J. (2000).  Raymond Bernard Cattell Web Site. [Information retrieved July 24, 2006 from http://www.stthomasu.ca/%7Ejgillis/cattell.html].

Horn, J.L. (1965). Fluid and crystallized intelligence: A factor analytic study of the structure among primary mental abilities. Ph.D. Thesis. University of Illinois.

Horn, J. (2000).  Cattell, Raymond B. In A. E. Kazdin (Ed), Encyclopedia of psychology (Vol. 2, pp. 55-57).  Washington DC:  American Psychological Association.

Horn, J. L., & Cattell, R. B. (1966a). Refinement and test of the theory of fluid and crystallized general intelligences. Journal of Educational Psychology, 57, 253-270.

Horn, J. L., & Cattell, R. B. (1967). Age differences in fluid and crystallized intelligence. Acta Psychologica, 26, 107-129.

Image courtesy of the Cattell family.

Raymond Cattell Memorial Web Site (created by Raymond Cattell’s family)

Raymond Cattell Web Site (created by John Gillis and other psychologists who knew Cattell)

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