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Women & Psychology - Florence Goodenough

Updated on January 31, 2013

At a time when men dominated the field of science, philosophy, and psychology, some women pushed their way to the top, one such woman was Florence Goodenough. She was an innovator in the field of psychology and in the study of gifted children. Florence L. Goodenough is not a name immediately connected with gifted education, even though she studied under two of that area’s most recognized forerunners, Leta S. Hollingworth and Lewis Terman, but Goodenough’s influences in the area of gifted education, her work in the fields of psychology and child study, allowed her to assume the role of a adviser, educator, and example to the up-and-coming female psychologists.

Florence Goodenough was born on August 6, 1886 in Honesdale, Pennsylvania, and was the youngest of nine children. In 1908 Goodenough graduated from Normal School in Millersville Pennsylvania with her bachelor’s degree in Pedagogy. She continued her education and graduated with a B.S. from Columbia University in 1920. In 1921, she received her M.A. from Columbia, where she studied under psychologist Leta Hollingsworth. While she was studying at this university, she was the director of research for Rutherford and Perth Amboy, both of which are New Jersey public school systems. It was during this time she started gathering children’s drawings as information for her research experiments (Bosler, 2000).

Goodenough received her Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1924. At Stanford University she assisted Professor Lewis M Terman with his famous studies of gifted children. It was at this time, that Terman was designing the Stanford-Binet I.Q. test for children. She was also accredited as being a key researcher on Terman’s longitudinal study of gifted children (Bosler, 2000).

In 1924, Dr. Goodenough moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota and began working at the Minneapolis Child Guidance Clinic. Within one year she was appointed to the assistant professor of the Institute of Child Welfare at the University of Minnesota. It was during this time that Goodenough started gathering most of her research that would eventually get published. Six years later, in 1931, she became a full-time professor and she held this position until her retirement in 1947. One of Dr. Goodenough’s most famous students was Ruth Howard, who was the first African-American female to receive a Ph.D. in psychology. In 1942, she was appointed as the president of the National Counsel of Women Psychologist. According to literature, Goodenough was never comfortable with this appointment and at one time declined to pay her dues and finally resigned her post stating “I am a psychologist, not a woman psychologist” (Wiess, n.d.). Goodenough also served as the president of the Society for Research in Child Development from 1946 to 1947. She retired from all her appointments and relinquished her role as a professor, early due to an illness. However, she still kept writing even though she suffered from blindness due to her illness. Florence Goodenough passed away on April 4, 1959 after suffering a massive stroke.

Goodenough was fascinated by children, in particular the gifted and pursued ways to measure their intelligence. ”Florence Goodenough spent a good portion of her intellectual life developing tools for assessing intelligence in young children. She strongly believed that IQ could be reliably measured with significant stability for most preschoolers” (Plucker, 2003). Some of Goodenough’s experiments during her career included studying exceptional children, child psychology, as well as anger and fear in infants. This resulted in ten books and twenty-six research articles. Her most famous books include: The Measurement of Intelligence by Drawings, The Measurement of Mental Growth, Anger in Young Children, Handbook of Child Psychology, Genetic Studies of Genius, Mental Testing: Its History, Principles, and Applications, Exceptional Children, and Genetic Studies of Genius.

Goodenough’s first book was titled Measurement of Intelligence by Drawings. Until this time, nonverbal IQ tests were not considered to be consistently accurate and were highly unreliable, or they were just too long to administer. Yet, Goodenough devised a test that became the first IQ test for non-verbal students. The test was called the “Draw-A-Man” test, also known as the Goodenough Scale. These pictures were looked at as a door into the mental processes and the mind’s organization using the idea that children draw what they know, not what they see (Bosler, 2000). Each child was instructed to draw a man and they were given ten minutes to do so. Goodenough developed a strict criterion for rating each drawing, which she related to the written I.Q. tests. The Draw a Man Test was used widely until the 1950’s. But after receiving discouraging feedback from women’s and minority groups, Goodenough revised her test, calling it Draw a Women test. These special interest groups pointed out that some children may not identify with a man, but most would identify with a woman.

Florence Goodenough also revised the Stanford-Binet test to include smaller children; the result was the Minnesota Preschool Scale. It also included both verbal and non-verbal scores. Goodenough also devised two processes, which are time sampling and event sampling. Time sampling is the study of a subject’s behavior over a certain period of time; meanwhile event sampling is noting a certain behavior and counting how often it occurs. Goodenough suggested that these approaches would be valuable in studying natural behavior in both humans and animals (Weiss, n.d.)

Not only did Goodenough create IQ tests, she was also the first psychologist to criticize the theory of ratio IQ. She claimed that the idea of mental age did not have the same significance for all children, and that the scores are not easy for the general population to comprehend. She instead thought that psychologists should use percentages in recording the results which would allow an evaluation of children of the same chronological age. This argument can be found her Handbook of Child Psychology that was published in 1933. “Although her position on the use of the ratio IQ may seem controversial, Goodenough confronted the most controversy of her career by taking a strong position on the classic nature vs. nurture debate surrounding intelligence. Goodenough maintained that intelligence is a stable entity and challenged the assertion that the environment plays a key role in children's intelligence scores” (Plucker, 2003).

Goodenough’s book entitled “Anger in Young Children” was published in 1931. This book was based on data she collected in a seven year study of forty one children wherein she analyzed the angry outbursts of children under 8 years of age. In her study she showed that children show anger at bath time and with physical discomfort, and by age four, social relations were the source of greatest anger. In her book she concludes that the control of a toddler’s angry behavior is achieved if it’s viewed with tolerance from the parents (Thompson, 2000). Florence Goodenough was a major contributor to The Genetic Studies of Geniuses which is now known as Terman Study of the Gifted. This longitudinal study began in 1921, and examines the growth and characteristics of gifted children into adulthood and it is now the oldest and longest running longitudinal study in the world. The results of the study have been published in five different books and dozens of articles. Goodenough collaborated on this project with another highly esteemed psychologist Catherine Cox.

Florence Goodenough, although not well known in the field of psychology, has had major contributions to the field of child psychology and mental aptitude tests. At a time when men dominated the field of science, philosophy, and psychology, some women pushed their way to the top, one such woman was Florence Goodenough. She was a forerunner in child psychology and the study of gifted children. Goodenough was the first to support the life span development method in Developmental Psychology. Florence L. Goodenough is not a name immediately connected with gifted education, even though she studied under two of the field's most recognized psychologists of that time, Leta S. Hollingworth and Lewis Terman, but her influences in the field of gifted education, her work in the area of psychology and child study, allowed her to rise to the role of an adviser, educator, and example to the up-and-coming female psychologists of her time and of future generations.


Bosler, A. (2000). History of Psychology Archives. Muskingum College. Retrieved from

Plucker, J. A. (Ed.). (2003). Human intelligence: Historical influences, current controversies, teaching resources. Retrieved [9/18/2010], from

Thompson, C. L. (2000). Parents of Preschool Children Newsletter. NC State University A&T State University Cooperative Extension. Retrieved from http://You are here--

Weiss, A. (n.d.). Women's Intellectual Contributions to the Study of Mind and Society. Webster University . Retrieved from


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