Raymond Cattell was born near Birmingham, England in 1905. He was raised in Devon, England, where he spent his time sailing and experimenting with science. He received a scholarship to the University of London, and studied chemistry and physics while there. After watching the cultural impact of World War I, Cattell’s interests began to shift to psychology. He changed his major and graduated from the University of London with a Ph.D. in psychology in 1929. Cattell settled in Leicester, England, and founded the first guidance clinic for children in England while in Leicester.
Cattell was offered a teaching position at Columbia University in 1937. He moved to the United States, and one year later, his colleague, Edward Thorndike, recommended him for a position with Clark University. Shortly after his time with Clark, Cattell took a position on the faculty of Harvard University. He married a student from Radcliffe College, Alberta Karen Schuettler, and worked with her over the years to conduct much of his research. Cattell left Harvard to begin a new research laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, lured by grant money and the first electronic computer. Cattell established the Laboratory of Personality Assessment and Group Behavior at the University of Illinois, and later, with his wife, established the Institute for Personality and Ability Testing.
Cattell was instrumental in the creation of the Society of Multivariate Experimental Psychology. Throughout his life he worked with researchers around the world to explore human behavior with multivariate statistics. After his retirement from the University of Illinois, Cattell settled in Hawaii, where he worked part-time as a professor at the University of Hawaii. He married again and worked with his wife, Heather Birkett, to develop the 16 Personality Factor Model. Cattell remained in Hawaii, sailing, researching, and writing, until his death in 1998.
Contribution to Psychology
Recognized as one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century, Cattell is best known for his development of the 16 Personality Factor Model. He spent years studying motivation, emotion, cognitive abilities, temperament, and basic aspects of personality and social behavior. He explored creativity, learning ability, and achievement and designed standardized tests to measure many of these factors. The sixteen personality factors were referred to as “source traits” by Cattell. He believed these factors influenced one’s surface personality. Although Cattell studied other dimensions of human development, his work in personality assessment is his most recognized achievement. The instruments used to measure the personality factors are the 16 Personality Factor Model and the 16PF Questionnaire.