Title

Measuring "Problems of Human Behavior": The Eugenic Origins of Yale's Institute of Psychology, 1921-1929

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

5-1-2014

Abstract

The Institute of Psychology at Yale was established in 1924 to study what its founders perceived as “problems of human behavior.” The Institute was Yale President James Angell’s first major step towards making the University a pre-eminent center for psychological research in the 1920s and 1930s. Endowed for a five-year term by the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Fund, the Institute brought three distinguished faculty to Yale: comparative psychologist Robert M. Yerkes, anthropologist Clark D. Wissler, and psychologist Raymond Dodge. While the Institute has been briefly cited in the historical literature as a precursor to the larger Institute of Human Relations established in 1929, its founding and five-year existence have never been described. This essay uses archival collections to explore the origins of the Institute of Psychology and show how it was born from the ideological union of experimental psychology and American eugenics.

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