Gittinger's Most Important Contributions

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The Two Most Important Contributions of John Gittinger and the PAS to Personality Theory

by Charles Krauskopf, PhD

I think the two most important contributions by Gittinger are the successful use of relative ability measures to infer preferential behavior and the idea he called compensation.

  1. The idea of using ability measures to infer personality characteristics is not new. It goes back at least to 1918 when Sydney Pressey grouped Stanford Binet items and tried to infer personality traits . Soon after the publication of the Wechsler-Bellvue intelligence test there was a flurry of research, mostly trying to identify abnormal syndromes rather than normal behavior. The lack of success with research, plus Cohen's declaration that the WB-I factor analyzed into three factors, discouraged research and such research sort of disappeared. Gittinger's contribution was not the idea, but his success in finding a way to use the relative strength of each Wechsler subtest as an independent variable.

    There are real advantages in using ability measures over self-reporting measures. Generally ability measures are more reliable. They do not require any self knowledge or conscious awareness. In other words ability measures are subtle. A lot of effort has been spent trying to find subtle items on the MMPI and other self-report measures. For example, it is better to avoid an item like "I often have the blues"on a scale to measure depression.

  2. Gittinger's discovery of relatively low and relatively high digit Span connected to observable behavior encouraged him. Further his move from Oklahoma to New York and working with a population with a much higher educational level than his Oklahoma hospitalized patients led him to his greatest contribution, the idea of Compensation. Compensation is the idea that a second subtest could indicate a reversal of the behavior indicated by the relative level of the first subtest. He called the first subtest, Digit span, a primitive subtest, one which did not require much learning and Arithmetic a compensating subtest, one which required much more learning . And, Arithmetic could indicate an expansion of the behavior repertoire to include the opposite behavior of that indicated by Digit Span.

    The Nature-Nuture controversy is centuries old, The general conclusion now is that the answer is both; however, there is a scarcity of theory that can generate testable hypotheses about how the Nature-Nuture split can be studied. The PAS offers strong hypotheses as to how this might be done.