Professor of Psychology, Emeritus
1921 – 2014
Harrison Gough, a major leader in the field of personality assessment, passed away on May 4, 2014, at the age of 93, in his home in Pebble Beach, California. Gough was born February 25, 1921, in Buffalo, Minnesota, and grew up in St. Cloud, Minnesota. He received his B.A. degree in sociology from the University of Minnesota in 1942, graduating summa cum laude. Shortly afterward, he enlisted in the military during World War II, serving from 1942 to 1946. He was assigned to the Air Crew Selection Program, considered by many psychologists to be the outstanding example of applied psychology in the history of the field. There, he would later remark, he learned that psychological tests, properly used, could forecast complex and important outcomes.
After the war, Gough returned to the University of Minnesota to earn his master’s and Ph.D. degrees in psychology (in 1947 and 1949, respectively). After completing his doctorate, he joined the Psychology Department of the University of California at Berkeley, and was a distinguished faculty member there for his entire academic career. He taught courses in assessment, psycho-diagnosis, and personality theory. Gough also had a tremendous impact on the training of psychologists – students and colleagues. He chaired or served on approximately 70 doctoral dissertations and is fondly remembered by many. He served as Chair of the Department from 1967 – 1972, a tumultuous period that included the Vietnam War and the firing of UC President Clark Kerr, and that followed several years of contentious strife between different departmental factions. Gough managed to steer the Department through these difficult times and bring the various groups together; he later remarked that although it had been a stressful job, it was redeemed by the fact that he had gained a deep appreciation of the talents of his colleagues. Subsequently, he served from 1973-83 as the Director of the Institute of Personality Assessment and Research (IPAR) [currently known as the Institute of Personality and Social Research (IPSR)]. He retired as an emeritus professor in 1986, but continued to work actively on various projects in personality assessment until the time of his death.
Gough’s most important contribution to psychology was the development of the California Psychological Inventory (CPI), which continues to have immense influence on applied psychology. The CPI assesses normal personality functioning, rather than pathological functioning, and thus it was a pioneering approach that anticipated the later development of positive psychology. The test is distinguished by a deep appreciation of human diversity, and its many well-researched scales and configural patterns provide a nuanced and highly perceptive way of describing the individual and predicting behavioral outcomes. The test has been translated into many languages and has been utilized in a wide variety of contexts, including educational and organizational settings. Gough always continued to revise and update his original CPI instrument and created a shorter version (the CPI 260). In January 2014, he and his colleague, Dr. Pamela Bradley, completed what will now be his final work, the CPI 260 Configural Analysis report.
Gough began the construction of the California Psychological Inventory in 1955. His goal was to meet the high psychometric standards set by the aviation selection program, with a primary emphasis on understanding the individual respondent. Moreover, he wanted to publish the CPI so that it could be used in organizations to support professional development and learning and growth. In 1956, Gough formed a lifelong business partnership with Dr. John D. “Jack” Black, when they co-founded Consulting Psychologists Press (now CPP, Inc.), with the CPI assessment as its first product. Since then, CPP has gone on to provide a wide range of psychological assessments, which can help improve the performance of both individuals and organizations. Gough played a significant role in shaping the company and served on CPP’s Board of Directors from the company’s inception in 1956 until 1996.
Gough never lost his passion for personality assessments, and he continued to construct new scales and measures, most notably the Adjective Check List (ACL), Personnel Reaction Blank, and Interpersonal Dependency Inventory assessments. In his lifetime, Gough created 38 assessments and published more than 200 research papers, chapters, manuals, books, and reviews. He carried out empirical research on diverse topics, such as personality determinants of longevity and creativity, and various predictions from the longitudinal study of thousands of West Point cadets. At IPAR, these research topics included the use of intensive three-day assessments of different groups of people (such as mathematicians, architects, medical students, and others) that incorporated a multifaceted method of studying the participants. This method combined individual interviews, observational procedures, games such as charades, experimental tasks, leaderless group discussions, psychological tests, and informal contacts between staff observers and participants – all of which made the assessments remarkable experiences for both the judges (usually experienced psychologists) and the group studied. Gough and his colleagues at IPAR were interested in the “effective personality,” focusing on genius, creativity, and generativity.
In addition to his research contributions, Gough was quite active in public and professional service. His many advisory public services include the following: the Research Advisory Committee, California Department of Corrections; Research Advisory Committee of Mental Hygiene; and NIMH Clinical Projects Research Review Committee. Professionally, he was Associate Editor for the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology for 11 years (1969-80), and served as a consulting editor for many other journals, including the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, and Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Without question, Gough has had a substantial impact on the field of psychology, as reflected by his numerous awards and honors. In this regard, it is particularly noteworthy that in 1987 he was honored by the California State Psychological Association as the instructor most frequently nominated by its members as having made a substantial contribution to their graduate training. Gough received one Guggenheim and two Fulbright fellowships for his work, and several awards from various divisions of the American Psychological Association: a lifetime contribution award from Division 5 (Evaluation, Measurement, and Statistics); an award for his outstanding contributions in normal personality measurement from Division 14 (Society for Industrial & Organizational Psychology); and, the Jack Block Award in recognition of his distinguished contributions to the field of personality psychology from Division 8 (the Society for Personality and Social Psychology). In 2010, the Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences (FABBS) honored Gough as a scientist who had made important and lasting contributions to the sciences of mind, brain, and behavior.
Harrison Gough leaves a remarkable legacy of dedication, creativity, and impeccable professionalism, as well as extraordinary contributions to the field of psychology. He was the quintessential empiricist, and his view on measurement was always utilitarian and pragmatic: does the measure "work" to predict external criteria? His empiricism presaged the contemporary recognition of the power of big data and quantification, and his pragmatism puts him at the core of 20th century psychology. On a personal level, his legacy is one of kindness, intelligence, charm, and wit – he was, to so many people, the epitome of a true gentleman and a scholar.
He is survived by his loving wife of 71 years, Kathryn Gough, his brother Philip, daughter Jane Rhodes, son-in-law Jeff Rhodes, two grandchildren and two great grandchildren.