Portions of this article were presented at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, August 5–9, 2009, Toronto, Canada. I thank the staff of the Archives for the History of American Psychology for their generous assistance. I also thank the editors of this issue and Judith Winston for their helpful comments and suggestions.
Value Neutrality and SPSSI: The Quest for Policy, Purity, and Legitimacy
Version of Record online: 14 MAR 2011
© 2011 The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues
Journal of Social Issues
Volume 67, Issue 1, pages 59–72, March 2011
How to Cite
Winston, A. S. (2011), Value Neutrality and SPSSI: The Quest for Policy, Purity, and Legitimacy. Journal of Social Issues, 67: 59–72. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-4560.2010.01683.x
- Issue online: 14 MAR 2011
- Version of Record online: 14 MAR 2011
I describe how the problem of “value neutrality” remained a central issue for SPSSI from the founding of the organization to the 1960s, as SPSSI leaders worked to maintain legitimacy in both scientific and public spheres. In 1930s psychology, notions of objectivity and political neutrality were intertwined in ways that produced substantial debate over SPSSI's aims. Under pressures from anticommunism and changes in public and private funding for research, the problem of neutrality intensified by the 1950s. In this new climate, the need to demonstrate value neutrality was a powerful constraint on the ability of SPSSI to respond to resurgent scientized racism after the Supreme Court Brown decision.