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Psyche Cattell
Psyche Cattell

(August 2, 1893 - April 17, 1989)
American Psychologist



  • She was homeschooled throughout her youth
  • Diploma, Sargent School for Physical Education (exact date unknown)
  • Most likely simultaneous with her attendance at the Sargent School, she took miscellaneous graduate level courses at New York, Columbia and Stanford Universities and the New School for Social Research
  • She attended summer programs at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory and the University of Vienna.
  • Cornell University (M.A., 1925)
  • Harvard University (Ed.M., 1925; Ed.D., 1927)
  • Research Assistant, Harvard Growth Study, Harvard University (1922-1925)
  • Research Assistant in Psychology under Lewis Terman, Stanford University (1925-1926)
  • Research Fellow, Harvard University School of Public Health (1932-1939)
  • Instructor in Mental Testing, The Nursery Training School of Boston (1936-1938)
  • Psychologist, Lebanon County Mental Health Clinic, Lebanon PA (1939-1942)
  • Chief Psychologist, Guidance Clinic of Lancaster, PA (1939-1963)
  • Maintained Private Practice (1939-1972)
  • Published the Cattell Infant Intelligence Scale (1940)
  • Founder and Director of The West End Nursery School (later renamed The Cattell School), Lancaster, PA (1941-1974)

The above information was provided by Hudson Cattell (personal communication, June 27, 2002) and Psyche Cattell (ca. 1971)

Major Contributions

The Cattell Infant Intelligence Scale (A downward extension of the Stanford-Binet)

Ideas and Interests

Psyche Cattell's father, James Mckeen Cattell (1860-1944) is a prominent figure in the history of American psychology. He founded and edited numerous psychological and scientific journals, helped to build one of the largest psychology training programs in the U.S., and was a key player in the establishment of psychology as a science separate from philosophy and medicine.

His contributions to the development of intelligence testing were also considerable. He was among the first researchers to look for a unitary factor underlying human intelligence; in fact, he originated the term "mental test" (J.M. Cattell, 1890). His empirical investigations of the relationships among reaction time, sensory acuity and intellectual prowess remain intriguing and controversial to this day. (Please see our Wissler's Controversy Hot Topic for more information.)

His daughter, Psyche Cattell, was also a successful psychologist. She was well known in Pennsylvania for her work at local mental health and guidance clinics, and also for the school she founded and directed between 1941 and 1974. However, her most enduring achievement is the Cattell Infant Intelligence Scale, a downward extension of the Stanford-Binet. Although this test was originally published in 1940, it remains popular to this day.

Psyche was the third of the seven children, all of whom were educated at home by their parents and private tutors. The Cattell household was indeed an enriched learning environment. Their father's editorial staff did much of their work out of the house, and distinguished visitors came and went routinely (Woodworth, 1944). James McKeen's connection with Columbia university offered other benefits as well: The children were able to earn pocket money by raising laboratory animals (H. Cattell, personal communication, June 27, 2002).

Psyche was a tenacious, focused student, but she was a slow reader, and had to spend extra time studying. In later years she would say that she was probably dyslexic, although she never underwent testing to confirm this. She was athletically inclined, and when she came of age she enrolled at the Sargent School for Physical Training, a Boston-based school for future physical education teachers. (H. Cattell, personal communication, June 27, 2002, P. Cattell, ca., 1971). As time and opportunity permitted, she also took classes at New York, Columbia, and Stanford Universities, and the New School for Social Research. Most of her graduate level courses were in statistics and educational psychology, but she studied a wide variety of subjects at both the undergraduate and graduate levels (P. Cattell, ca., 1971)

Psyche obtained a diploma from the Sargent School, but explorations at the various universities had intensified her interest in psychology, and she decided to focus her attention there. In 1922 she became a Research Assistant for the massive Harvard Growth study, assisting in the supervision, administration and revision of a variety of mental tests. In the summers she attended programs at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, and the University of Vienna (P. Cattell, ca., 1971). In 1925 she completed her two simultaneous Master's degrees--one at Harvard, and one at Cornell. She spent the next academic year working as a Research Assistant for Lewis Terman at Stanford University, assisting him in the revision of the Stanford Achievement Test and the development of a masculinity-femininity test. She then returned to Harvard, and in 1927 became the first woman to earn an Ed.D. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education (Office of External Relations, Harvard Graduate School of Education, personal communication, July 1, 2002).

Psyche Cattell's most significant contribution to the field of intelligence testing came as a result of her work at the Harvard University School of Public Health. In 1932 she was appointed a Research Fellow in a comprehensive longitudinal child development study examining the influence of environmental and health factors on the psychological development of children (P. Cattell, ca. 1971; Stuart, 1940). At regular intervals the approximately 300 children involved in the study were photographed and given a variety of medical and psychological tests.

As the study progressed, the investigators discovered that the intelligence tests they had been using were lacking in several areas. The Stanford-Binet worked well for the older children, but it could not be administered to the toddlers and infants. No standardized infant intelligence tests were available, and the preschool intelligence scales that did exist were not successful in catching and maintaining the attention of the toddlers. Other problems having to do with standardization, subjectivity, and an overemphasis on social knowledge and gross motor skills also made these tests undesirable (P. Cattell, 1940).

Psyche Cattell was charged with developing a better test. Her plan was simple: She examined the available tests, took the best parts from each one, and adopted and adapted as necessary. Many items came from the Gesell Developmental Schedules (1925), and the Stanford-Binet, but she also created new test items based on data collected from the Harvard study in progress. She then arranged the items into an age scale modeled after the Stanford-Binet (P. Cattell, 1940). The test she developed was progressive, so infants were assessed based on such things as object manipulation, vocalization and attention to stimulus objects, and toddlers would be evaluated with increasing numbers of items from the Stanford-Binet. The entire test, assembled in a kit of 45 familiar household items, could be administered individually in 20-30 minutes. The test's reliance on the Stanford-Binet had a major advantage: For the first time, researchers and clinicians could assess intelligence on a continuous scale from infancy to adulthood. (definitely cite this one)

In 1940, Psyche Cattell published her test in The Measurement of Intelligence Of Infants and Young Children. The test kits became commercially available that same year, and were distributed by The Psychological Corporation, an organization started by her father in 1921. She preferred to assemble the kits herself, and continued doing so until the 1980s.

Many psychologists praise the Cattell test for its relatively short administration time, its ease of use, and its emphasis on cognitive (as opposed to motor) development (Ricciuti, 1994). However, Psyche Cattell did not believe that her test was perfect, (P. Cattell, 1940, p. 24) and research has demonstrated that it has little predictive validity for children less than one year old (P. Cattell, 1940; Cronbach, 1960). In addition, Cattell IQ at age one has only a modest correlation (.56) with IQ at age 3. (Cavanaugh, et al., 1957). However, it is possible that this does not reflect a weakness in the test: Some theorists believe that there may be a qualitative difference between infant intelligence and the intelligence measured later in life (Fagan, 1985).

Despite these shortcomings, the Cattell Infant Intelligence Scale can be a valuable tool in situations where predictive validity is not of primary importance. For example, the test can be used to identify young children who are not developing normally (P. Cattell, 1940). Children who are screened in infancy can benefit from early intervention programs. The scale can also be used in developmental research studies (Ricciuti, 1994). There can be no doubt that Psyche Cattell's sixty year-old test, although imperfect, is indeed a genuine asset to 21st century psychology.

Selected Publications

Cattell, P. (1936). The development of intelligence and motor control in infancy. Review of Educational Research. 6, 3-16.
Cattell, P. (1939). The development of motor functions and mental abilities in infancy. Review of Educational Research. 9, 5-17.
Cattell, P. (1940). The measurement of intelligence of infants and young children. New York: Psychological Corporation.
Cattell, P. (1941). Intelligence of infants and its measurement. Transactions of the New York Academy of Science. 3,162-71.


Cattell, J.M.(1890). Mental tests and measurements. Mind, 15, 373-381.

Cattell, H. (personal communications, June 27, 2002; July 29, 2002)

Cattell, P. (ca., 1971). [Statement of the Education and Experience of Psyche Cattell]. Unpublished. Provided by Hudson Cattell, June 28, 2002.

Cavanaugh, M.C., Cohen, I., Dunphy, D., Ringwell, E.A., & Goldberg, I.D. (1957). Prediction from the Cattel Infant Intelligence Scale. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 21, 33-37.

Cronbach, L.J. (1949, 1960). Essentials of Psychological Testing (Second ed.). New York: Harper and Row.

Fagan, J.F. (1985). A new look at infant intelligence. In D.K. Detterman (Ed.). Current Topics in Human Intelligence (Vol. 1). (pp. 223-241).

Office of External Relations, Harvard Graduate School of Education (personal communication, July 7, 2002).

Ricciuti, H.N. (1994). Infant tests as measures of early competence. In R.J. Sternberg (Ed.). Encyclopedia of intelligence. (pp. 575-578). New York: Macmillan.

Stuart, H.C. (1940). Forward. In P. Cattell (Au). The measurement of intelligence of infants and young children. (pp.5-7). NY: The Psychological Corporation.

Woodworth, R.S. (1944). Some personal characteristics. Science, 99 (2565), 14-15.

Zusne, L. (1987). Eponyms in psychology: A dictionary and biographical sourcebook. New York: Greenwood Press.

Image courtesy of Hudson Cattell.

We would like to thank Hudson Cattell for his generous help with this profile.

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