The Field of Psychology During WWII

Military psychology was not a new concept in World War II. In both the First and Second World Wars, the British government enlisted the help of thousands of psychologists to perform research, testing, and experimentation to determine the selection, placement, and training of its soldiers. But for the first time, the scientific application of psychology was used to weaken the enemy forces in addition to strengthening its own. At the time of the Second World War, there was also a growing recognition of the cultural influences on man and how they may determine individual motivations

Many psychologists claim that World War 2 was most responsible for the emergence of social and cultural psychology as legitimate areas of science. Prior to the war, most aspects of social psychology were philosophical--the discipline was simply viewed as the "philosophy of the mind." When the psychological warfare campaign began, governments began to actively recruit psychologists to take part in planning and testing, and a new style of systematic field research emerged.

While Hitler openly and enthusiastically engaged psychologists in his war effort, the British were less inclined less inclined to admit that they too were using such "illegitimate" techniques for their own campaign. Throughout the war, they avoided using the term "psychological warfare" at all, preferring to call it "political warfare" instead. As a result, they remained highly secretive about the psychologists they did employ, and largely relied on United States to perform much of the psychological research necessary for their psywar campaign.

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