In the Squat red-brick building next door to the Hygienic Department on Holyoke Street, University scientists are working on what may one day be one of Harvard's important contributions to society, the analysis of the "normal" person.
"The Grant Study in Social Adjustments", to give the full dress title, ocoupies the made-over squash courts and swimming pool known as "Big Tree." Here a seven-man crew: a physician, and anthropologist, a physiologist, two psychiatrists, a psychologist, and a persomel worker join in a cooperative, correlative effort and by studying selected groups of Sophomores, are attempting to analyze the forces that have produced normal young men.
All seven of these experts apply simple techniques in their own fields to each of the undergraduates that they have as participants, and frequently get together and pool their results. The comparisons of the bodies of data thus accumulated have resulted already in the discovery of some interesting facts.
Physical, Psychiatric Correlation
For example, correlation of the information gathered by the physician with that of the psychiatrist shows that there is a relationship between some minor physical defects such as poor teeth, frequent headaches, flat feet and certain less desirable personality traits. Seventy per cent of 56 students tagged by the psychiatrists were labeled the same way by the physician, who based his opinion only on pulse rate and blood pressure measurements. When the anthropologist and the psychiatrist got together, they found that a lack of harmony in body measurements in a man may be related to personality weakness. Breadth of shoulder in relation to calf circumference, and skull circumference in relation to chest circumference are among the anthropological features which may point to particular personality traits. Environmental influences which may have acted upon young men are also being considered One of the questions which the Study is now trying to solve is: why do public school boys do better in college, on the whole, than private school boys, in spite of rather equal aptitude tests?
Probably the most important fact which the Grant Study has unearthed is the presence of innumerable differences among "normal" young men. Indeed, the world "normal" has been given up entirely and in place of it there have been substituted certain simple classification groups. The participants are divided into three categories, A, B, and C. "A" men are those with no flaws and very sound personalities, but may range from strong dynamic men to bland colorless individuals. Men with minor flaws are placed in the B class, while those with rather definite handicaps, both mental and physical, are designated as "C". All are considered "normal". The subjects also fit into certain groups of personality traits such as "strong basic", "weak basic", "Pragmatic", "idealistic", and "Shy". The doctors in the Grant Study believe that, while the "A" men will become the back-cone of society, and good, reliable citizens, the "B" and even the "C" group are more apt to make the headlines, and shape the course of history. Their flaws may be associated with factors which drive them on, not permitting them to be contented with the status quo.
20 Hours of Interviews
Each of the Sophomores sleeted has series of interviews which consume in all, about 20 hours. After a preliminary chat with Dr. Clark W. Health, physician and administrator of the Study, who explains its plan and purpose, he has his first meeting with one of the doctors. Although there is no set chronology of interviews, a man often begins with Dr. John M. Flumerfelt, a psychiatrist who has been conducting the majority of the discussions. The informal talks with the curly-headed, blond Philadelphia (who has now left to join the Army Medical (orps) are designed to uncover a man's mental background and development, and to find out what kind of a person he is, and if possible, why.
Miss Lewise W. Gregory, charming dark-haired Southerner, is officially listed in the roster of the Study's staff as a personnel worker. Her concern is with a man's liereditary background, early schooling and influences, and other socioeconomic factors. Sometime during the year, Miss Gregory pays a visit to each man's family even though they live as far away as the West Coast.
Dr. Heath gives a complete, two-hour medical examination featuring the usual knee-tapping and blood testing, but with special emphasis on medical history. Dr. Lucien Brouha at the Fatigue Lab is known by many undergraduates as the operator of the seven-mile an hour treadmill, which is designed to exhaust the student. Strapped to the student's chest are electrodes, which amplify his heart beats and record them upon a moving tape. In the first of two sessions at the laboratory, the metabolism and the respiratory pattern of each student are taken, after he has gone breakfastless and has rested for one-half hour.
Almost every conceivable measurement from the length of a man's nose to the width of his feet is recorded by Dr. Carl C. Seltzer, the anthropologist. The student's height, standing up, sitting, and lying down are noted, as well as his lung capacity.
Psychological Tests Taken
Under the supervision of Dr. Frederic L. Wells, the psychologist, the participant is presented with a paper covered with a multi-colored ink spot. He is asked to tell what he sees on the page, whether it be bugs or Hindu death masks, and each object is recorded by Dr. Wells. This is the Rorschach test which contributes to the formulation of personality traits. Lists of words are read to the man, and he repeats the first thing that comes into his head. Finally, several pictures are given him, and he writes a little story on several which he may select. Under the direction of Miss Savage, Dr. Wells' assistant, the usual aptitude tests are made. Either under Miss Savage's eye, or Dr. Wells' supervision, the student takes specially-cut pieces of wood, and forms them into a rectangular solid. These are the so-called "Harvard Test Blocks" which test a person's manipulative insight.
In conferences these results are correlated, and if possible conclusions are drawn. For example, the psychiatrists may know that a man is interested in government, its but tends toward shyness and an inferiority complex, that that he is friendly and dependent on others. When Miss Savage compares the results of her tests with what the psychiatrists know about the man, she can see which questions are accurate and useful in appraising the man, and which are useless and false.
The most important factor in the work is the men themselves. The most desirable candidates for the Grant Study should not be "nonentities," and should have no marked physical or mental defects. Thus the selection is careful and detailed, necessitating the checking and re-checking of the names of students in the Freshman class. Eliminated at the very beginning of the sorting process are those with low academic rating. These make up approximately 40 per cent of the class. Next the Hygicne Department records of the remaining 60 per cent of the original 1000 are read through, and those who seem qualified are rated "A." The list is now pared down to about 300 names. These are submitted to the Deans, who rate about two thirds of the students as A, B, or C. Back to the officials of the Grant Study goes the checked list, and the A and unmarked men are re-graded (B and C students are eliminated.) Finally, after more discussion and checking, about 80 are approached and 70 men are finally selected. The men who finally participate are probably studied more thoroughly and from more points of view than has hitherto been done.
What is the purpose of all this work, and to that use can the conclusions be put? Dr. Health has said: "Large endowments have been made for the study of tuberculosis, cancer, the mentally sick, criminals, and delinquents. But the people who are not a drag on the community, who do the work of the world, and who do not need attention are majority in the world. If they are frustrated, the world is frustrated. Their happiness is the world's happiness. Because the average man in Germany had lost confidence in himself and his nation, Hitler rose to power. Because the average man in America wanted Roosevelt for President in 1940, he was elected by a sweeping majority. Because the average man in this country wanted freedom, and the right to say and think as he pleased our democracy arose. The democratic form of government rests upon the belief in and the beliefs of the common man.
"Our society," says Dr. Bock, controller of the University's health, and general supervisor of the Grant Study, "has an overabundance of disharmony, frustration, and lack of leadership." Why? Because many an average man is unhappy in a job for which he is not suited, and where he is not contented. Thus to alleviate the disharmony of the world at large, we must start with the successful man rather than the unsuccessful, frustrated, or ill man.
When the seven observers working in the Grant Study have discovered which anthropological measurements, which psychological questions, which physical characteristics, and what factors of home and background are the important ones that go into the making of a man and his character, they man be able to draw up a formula which will easily and correctly guide a man to his proper place in the world's society.