Military psychology is basically the research, design, and application of psychological theories and data experimentation towards understanding, predicting, and countering behaviors either in friendly or hostile manner in the civilian population which can be undesirable, intimidating, or potentially dangerous to the conduct of military operations. It is applied towards counseling and treatment of stress and fatigue of military personnel or military families as well as treatment of psychological trauma suffered as a result of intense field operations. The goals and missions of current military psychologists have been well preserved over the years, varying with the focus and strength of research intensity put forth into each sector. Because of this, the need for mental health care is now an expected part of high-stress military environments.

Historically, psychological stress and disorders have always been a part of military life, especially during and after wartime. However, the mental health section of military psychology has not always experienced the awareness as it does now. Even in today’s present, there is much more research and awareness needed concerning this area. And perhaps, one of the first institutions established to care for military psychiatric patients was St. Elizabeth Hospital in Washington D.C. (formerly known as the United States Government Hospital for the Insane), where it was founded by Congress in 1855 and is currently in a state of despair even though some foreseeable operational plans to revitalize the building was scheduled to begin in 2010.

Operational Psychology

By function, operational psychology from the military viewpoint is the use of psychological principles and skills to improve a military commander’s decision-making as it pertains to conducting combat and/or other related operations. Well, this is a relatively new sub-discipline categorization which has been employed largely by psychologists and behavioral scientists in military, intelligence, and law enforcement arenas. While psychology has been utilized in non-related health fields for many decades, recent years have witnessed an increasing focus on its national security applications. Examples of such applications incorporate the development of counterinsurgency strategy through human profiling, interrogation, and detention support, information-psychological operations, and the selection of personnel for special mission units.

Intelligence Testing in the United States Army

Lewis M. Terman, a professor at Stanford University, revised the Binet-Simon Scale in 1916 and renamed it as the Stanford-Binet Revision. This test was the beginning of the “Intelligence Testing Movement” and was given to over 170,000 American soldiers during World War 1. In short, Professor Yerkes published and documented the results of these tests in 1912 and that became known as the Army Report.

Technically, there were two tests which initially made up the intelligence tests for the military; Army Alpha and Army Beta. These two tests were developed to evaluate vast numbers of military recruits that were both literate (Army Alpha Tests) and illiterate (Army Beta Tests). Whatever it is, the Army Beta Tests were designed to measure “native intellectual capacity”, as it also helped to test non-English speaking service members.

The standardized intelligence and entrance tests which have been used for each military outlet in the United States has transformed significantly over the years. In 1974, for example, the US Department of Defense decided that all Services should utilize the ASVAB for both screening enlistees (future military personnel) and assigning them to carry out military occupations. Combining selection and classification testing made the entire testing process more efficient. Consequently, this particular testing system used in the US military went fully into effect in 1976.

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