Raymond Cattell

From New World Encyclopedia

Raymond Bernard Cattell (March 20, 1905 - February 2, 1998) was a British and American psychologist who theorized the existence of fluid and crystallized intelligences to explain human cognitive ability. In keeping with his devotion to rigorous scientific method, Cattell was an early proponent of the application in psychology of rigorous statistical methods such as factor analysis, in place of what he called mere "verbal theorizing."

One of the most important results of Cattell's application of factor analysis was the derivation of 16 factors underlying human personality. He called these 16 factors "source traits" because he believed that they provide the underlying source for the surface behaviors that are thought of as personality.

Although some of Cattell's views proved controversial, particularly his advocacy of eugenics, his contributions to the scientific development of work on understanding human personality is undeniable.


Raymond Bernard Cattell was born on March 20, 1905 in Hilltop, a village on the outskirts of Birmingham, England. He was the second of three sons of Alfred Cattell and Mary Field Cattell, both of whom were born in Hilltop. The family moved to the seaside town of Torquay, in South Devonshire, when Cattell was 6 years old. There he spent his early childhood happily with his brothers and friends, and developed a lifelong love for the ocean and sailing.

However, England entered World War I when Cattell was nine. When a local house was converted into a hospital, Cattell observed the wounded as they were brought from the battlefields. This experience turned him into an unusually serious boy.

Cattell won a scholarship to Torquay Boy's Grammar School where he excelled. In 1921, he was awarded a county scholarship to University College, London, where he earned a bachelor of science degree with first class honors in chemistry in 1924.

Influenced by the work of Cyril Burt, Charles Spearman (who was developing factor analysis), and Ronald Fisher (who was developing analysis of variance), whom he had met during his chemistry studies, he turned his studies principally to psychology. He entered the doctoral program in 1924. His dissertation topic was "The Subjective Character of Cognition and Presensational Development of Perception," and he received his doctorate in 1929. Also from the University of London, he earned a master's degree in education in 1932 and an honorary doctor of science degree in 1939.

From 1927 to 1932, Cattell taught at Exeter University and served as an advisory psychologist at Dartington Hall, a progressive school that received considerable attention in the 1930s. From 1932 through 1936, he served as director of the City of Leicester Child Clinic.

In 1937, Edward L. Thorndike offered Cattell a research associate position at Columbia University. He accepted the offer, expecting to stay in the United States no more than two years. But in 1938, he won an appointment to the G. Stanley Hall professorship in genetic psychology at Clark University. He moved from there to a lectureship at Harvard in 1941, where he remained until 1945, when he was appointed to a newly created research professorship in psychology at the University of Illinois and remained in that post until 1973.

The next year, he moved to Honolulu, where he was appointed to adjunct professorships at the University of Hawaii and the Hawaii School of Professional Psychology. In Hawaii he married Heather Birkett, a clinical psychologist who conducted research using Cattell's 16PF questionnaire, with whom he enjoyed the remainder of his life.

He continued to publish more than four articles per year and two books per decade through the 1970s and 1980s, and remained active in writing even as he became sick with colon cancer, prostate cancer, and heart disease in the 1990s. He died of congestive heart failure in his sleep at his home in Honolulu on February 2, 1998.


The personality theory that emerged from Cattell's empirical work provided a basis for describing the uniqueness of individuals. It has been classified as "trait theory" though it deals with much more than merely the enduring characteristics whereby one person can be distinguished from another; it is also an account of states and systematic changes in behavior brought about through motivation and learning. It provides a description of short-term and lifelong changes in behavior associated with neurophysiological, genetic, familial, social, and cultural factors. It is thus a comprehensive theory of human personality.

Cattell differentiated "source traits" from "surface traits." Surface traits are those found by Gordon Allport, representing the personality characteristics easily seen by other people. Source traits are those more basic traits that underlie the surface traits. Shyness, being quiet, and disliking crowds might all be surface traits related to the more basic source trait of introversion, a tendency to withdraw from excessive stimulation.

Using factor analysis, a statistical technique that looks for groupings and commonalities in numerical data, Cattell discovered 16 source traits, and although in 1977 he determined that there might be some other seven source traits to make a total of 23, he developed his assessment questionnaire, The Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire, or 16PF, based on those 16 source traits. They are seen as trait dimensions or continua, in which there are two opposite traits at each end with many possible degrees of the traits possible along the dimension.

The Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire

Cattell's The Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire grew out of the research on self-report data that he directed over a period of more than thirty years. This well-respected and widely used personality test is based on the hypothesis that there is invariance across the media of observation, which means that some of the same important features of personality are seen, and can been measured, in different kinds of data—namely, behavior ratings and objective tests as well as self-reports.

Cattell's research, on which he developed the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire, proceeded as follows:

  1. Establishing, by factor analytic means, independent dimensions of personality within behavior-rating data;
  2. Writing self-report items to represent these dimensions;
  3. Factoring to determine factors among the responses to these items.

Several forms of the 16PF have been produced—some for different language and culture groups, and some for poor readers. Several different norm tables are available. Interpretation of the factors of the questionnaire derive from research and practical applications in a variety of social, clinical, industrial, and educational settings. The 16PF has been used and studied in thousands of published investigations. As debates about the strengths and weaknesses of the 16PF continue, use of the questionnaire has remained high.

Fluid and Crystallized Intelligence

In his psychometric research on individual differences in intelligence, Cattell identified fluid and crystallized intelligence (abbreviated gF and gC, respectively) as factors of "general intelligence." He defined fluid intelligence as the ability to find meaning in confusion and solve new problems, whereas crystallized intelligence is defined as the ability to utilize previously acquired knowledge and experience:

It is apparent that one of these powers… has the “fluid” quality of being directable to almost any problem. By contrast, the other is invested in particular areas of crystallized skills which can be upset individually without affecting the others.[1]

The terms should not be taken to imply that one form of intelligence is the "crystallized" form of the other. Rather, they are separate though correlated mental abilities. Together, they comprise g, or "general intelligence." Charles Spearman, who originally developed the theory of g, made a similar distinction between "eductive" and "reproductive" mental ability.

Fluid intelligence includes such abilities as problem-solving, learning, and pattern recognition. As evidence for its continuity, Cattell suggests that gF abilities are rarely affected by brain injuries. The Cattell Culture Fair IQ test, the Raven Progressive Matrices, and the performance subscale of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) are measures of gF.

Crystallized intelligence is possibly more amenable to change as it relies on specific, acquired knowledge. For example, a child who has just learned how to recite the fifty states of America owns a new piece of crystallized intelligence; but his or her general ability to learn and understand (gF) has not been altered. Vocabulary tests and the verbal subscale of the WAIS are considered good measures of gC. Not surprisingly, people with a high capacity of gF tend to acquire more gC knowledge and at faster rates.

Criticism and the APA Lifetime Achievement Award

Cattell has been criticized on the basis of his interests in eugenics, evolution, and alternative cultures and political systems. Political critics note that Cattell is known for laying out a mixture of Galtonian eugenics and theology called "Beyondism," which he considered "a new morality from science." Such critics also note that his work in this area was published numerous times in the Pioneer Fund's Mankind Quarterly and its editor, Roger Pearson, has published two of Cattell's monographs. Cattell was also a Pioneer Fund recipient.[2]

Cattell was also much criticized for his idea that morality is branch of natural science and that evolutionary ethics provides the "true universal morality," and that religions—in particular Christianity—have uncritically and falsely failed to recognize this. Cattell reasoned that ethics that apply within groups do not apply between groups. Competitiveness should exist between groups, but the development of large political organizations is inimical to advancement of the human species. According to Cattell, humans should organize into small, independent communities that peacefully compete in advancing particular views about the correct way to live. A principle of "survival of the fittest" among communities would then operate to enable human societies to adapt and improve. The more successful of such communities would adopt eugenic policies. Mechanisms that can most safely, effectively, and intelligently control such groups can be created, put in place, maintained only by a government of scientists. Science would become a highly organized major function of national and international life. Such ideas (unsurprisingly) proved extremely unpopular among those unconvinced that a purely scientific approach to life was the way to advance humankind.

Yet, it must also be understood that Cattell was proposing an alternative to war and violence to solve conflict:

This Beyondist view of nations lets competition, rather than war, solve intergroup conflict. I have lived through two major wars first hand. As a teenager I worked in a military hospital and saw the carnage. Beyondism offers an intelligent, non-violent alternative to war.[3]

In 1997, at age 92, Cattell was chosen by the American Psychological Association (APA) for its "Gold Medal Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Science of Psychology." However before the medal was presented, a former student at the University of Illinois, Barry Mehler, launched a publicity campaign against Cattell through his nonprofit foundation, the Institute for the Study of Academic Racism (ISAR).[4] He accused Cattell of being sympathetic to racist and fascist ideas and claimed that "it is unconscionable to honor this man whose work helps to dignify the most destructive political ideas of the twentieth century". Mehler reports that he was mentored by Jerry Hirsch, a colleague and strong critic of Cattell at the University of Illinois, where Cattell and Hirsch spent the majority of their careers. Cattell was also criticized by Rutgers professor William H. "Bill" Tucker, a friend and associate of Mehler's to whom Mehler "generously opened both his files and his home." In his book The Funding of Scientific Racism, Tucker claimed that Cattell (in 1937) praised the eugenics laws of the pre-war Third Reich for promoting racial improvement.

A blue-ribbon committee was convened by the APA to investigate the legitimacy of the charges. However, before the committee reached a decision Cattell issued an open letter to the committee saying "I believe in equal opportunity for all individuals, and I abhor racism and discrimination based on race. Any other belief would be antithetical to my life’s work" and saying that "it is unfortunate that the APA announcement … has brought misguided critics' statements a great deal of publicity." He refused the award, withdrawing his name from consideration. The blue ribbon committee was therefore disbanded and Cattell, in failing health, died a mere two months later. This incident and its lack of resolution ultimately reflected worse on the APA than on Cattell or his accusers.


Raymond Cattell ranks at the top among those who have most influenced scientific psychology in the twentieth century. He was famously productive throughout his 92 years, and ultimately was able to claim a combined authorship and co-authorship of 55 books and some 500 journal articles in addition to at least 30 standardized tests. His legacy includes not just that intellectual production, but also a spirit of scientific rigor brought to an otherwise soft science, kept burning by his students and co-researchers who survived him.

The regularities indicated in Cattell's research, now appearing in many guises, remain among the principle contributions to theoretical analysis of personality. Many self-report measures of personality stem from Cattell's Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire. Cattell pioneered the development of numerous concepts in personality theory, in addition to a variety of statistical techniques which have greatly advanced the study of human nature.

Cattell's Innovations

  • Definition of the three domains of the personality sphere (the totality of factorial measurements of the personality, ability, and motivation)
  • Fluid and crystallized intelligence
  • State and trait measurement of personality
  • The Scree Test (using the curve of latent roots to judge the number of factors)
  • The Procrustes factor analysis rotation program (for testing a hypothesized factor structure)
  • The coefficient of profile similarity (taking account of shape, scatter, and level of two score profiles)
  • The Dynamic Calculus (for assessing interests and motivation)
  • P-technique factor analysis (for an occasion-by-variable matrix)
  • The Taxonome program (for ascertaining the number and contents of clusters in a data set)
  • The Basic Data Relations Box (the dimensions of experimental designs)
  • Sampling of variables, as opposed to or in conjunction with sampling of persons
  • Group syntality construct (the "personality" of a group)
  • The factoring or repeated measures on single individuals to study fluctuating personality states
  • Multiple Abstract Variance Analysis (with "specification equations" embodying genetic and environmental variables and their interactions)
  • The founding of the Society for Multivariate Experimental Psychology and the journal Multivariate Behavioral Research
  • Developed the Culture Fair Intelligence Test (CFIT)

Selected publications

  • Cattell, R. B. 1933. Psychology and Social Progress: Mankind and Destiny from the Standpoint of a Scientist. London: C. W. Daniel.
  • Cattell, R. B. 1937. The Fight for our National Intelligence. London: P. S. King.
  • Cattell, R. B. 1950. Personaliy: A Systematic, Theoretical, and Factual study. New York McGraw Hill.
  • Cattell, R. B. 1965. The Scientific Analysis of Personality. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books. ISBN 0202309150
  • Cattell, R. B. & John Nesselroade 1966. Handbook of Multivariate Experimental Psychology. Chicago: Rand McNally. ISBN 0306425262
  • Cattell, R. B. 1971. Abilities: Their Structure, Growth, and Action. New York: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0395042755
  • Cattell, R. B. 1972. A New Morality From Science: Beyondism. New York: Pergamon Press. ISBN 0080171923
  • Cattell, R. B. & P Kline. 1977. The Scientific Analysis of Personality and Motivation. New York: Academic Press. ISBN 012164250X
  • Cattell, R. B. 1987. Intelligence: Its Structure, Growth, and Action. New York: Elsevier Science Pub. Co. ISBN 0444879226
  • Cattell, R. B. 1987. Beyondism: Religion from Science. New York: Praeger. ISBN 0275924319
  • Cattell, R. B. 1994. Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire. (5th edition) Champaign, Illinois: Institute for Personality and Ability Testing, Inc.


  1. R. B. Cattell, Intelligence: Its Structure, Growth, and Action (New York: Elsevier Science Pub. Co, 1987). ISBN 0444879226
  2. David Lethbridge, 2003. Racial Scientist Rushton Takes Over Pioneer Fund.
  3. Raymond B. Cattell, 1997. Open Letter to the APA Retrieved January 19, 2007.
  4. ISAR website, Institute for the Study of Academic Racism Retrieved January 19, 2007.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Boring, E.G. 1950. A History of Experimental Psychology, 2nd ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. ISBN 0133900398
  • Brennan, J.F. 1986. History and Systems of Psychology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc. ISBN 0133922189
  • Carroll, J. B. 2004. Human Cognitive Abilities: A Survey of Factor-Analytic Studies. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521387124
  • Geary, D. C. 2004. The Origin of Mind: Evolution of Brain, Cognition, and General Intelligence. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. ISBN 1591471818
  • Kline, P. 2000. The New Psychometrics: Science, Psychology, and Measurement. London: Routledge. ISBN 0415228212
  • Leahey, Th. H. 1991. A History of Modern Psychology. Englewood Cliff, NJ: Prentice Hall. 3 edition. 2000. ISBN 0130175730
  • MacDonald, Marvin J. 1998. "Psychology, Eugenics, and the Case of Raymond B. Cattell". History and Philosophy of Psychology Bulletin.
  • Tucker, W. H. 1996. The Science and Politics of Racial Research. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0252065603
  • Tucker, W. H. 2002. The Funding of Scientific Racism: Wickliffe Draper and the Pioneer Fund. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0252027620

External links

All links retrieved December 7, 2022.


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