Psychology in the Canadian Forces

By Lamerson, Cheryl D. | Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, April 2002 | Go to article overview

Psychology in the Canadian Forces


Lamerson, Cheryl D., Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science


Abstract

This paper provides an introduction to the Special Issue on Industrial-Organizational Psychology in the Canadian Forces. A brief history of the application of psychology in the Canadian Forces is outlined, beginning with World War II. In particular, the creation of the Personnel Selection Branch of the military is described, and the responsibilities of Personnel Selection Officers are outlined. It is demonstrated that these officers are engaged in a variety of activities where the application of psychology is important. The paper concludes by pointing out how the empirical papers contained in the Special Issue, are representative of current research and practice of psychology in the Canadian Forces.

Resume

Cet article se veut une introduction de ce numero special dont le theme est la psychologie industrielle et organisationnelle dans les Forces canadiennes. On presente un bref historique de l'application de la psychologie au sein des Forces canadiennes, qui debute avec la Deuxieme Guerre mondiale. On mentionne notamment la creation de la Direction - Recherche et evaluation en ressources humaines et des responsabilites qui sont confiees aux officiers de selection du personnel. 11 est demontre que ces officiers participent a une grande variete d'activites pour lesquelles 1'application de la psychologie est importante. En guise de conclusion, cet article souligne combien les etudes empiriques qui font partie du numero special sont representatives de la recherche et de la pratique menees dans les Forces canadiennes.

I started writing this introduction, as the events of September 11, 2001, were still unfolding in all their gruesome detail. As military members we are every bit as shocked, saddened, angered, and dismayed as the rest of the world about terrorist attacks. We also know, perhaps better than many nonmilitary personnel reading this, the ominous possibilities that could be set in motion in response to attacks on the U.S.

One of my tasks on Tuesday, September 11, was to remind my people that we could be recalled at any time and to ask them to ensure that they were ready for such a recall, including having emergency childcare plans in place. One of my staff asked what exactly a directorate of personnel researchers in a division of human resources policy-makers would do if we were recalled. I must admit, I did not have a quick answer. That evening I tossed and turned trying to forget the images of the day. I also tried to think through the question of what an occupation of 120 officers trained predominantly in Organizational Psychology would do to best serve the Canadian Forces, Canada, and the world in the face of a large disaster or, worse, an armed conflict.

This train of thought caused me to think back over the 60-year existence of my Branch and occupation. It really began in April 1939, even before war was declared, when a group of Canadian psychologists got together to discuss how they could identify and marshal the resources of psychologists in the looming war, how they would demonstrate what psychologists could and should do in the war effort, and to negotiate with the government how they would serve in the event of a war (Anderson, 1991; Prociuk, 1988). They came to the conclusion that their skills could best be used to ensure that citizens approaching the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), Canadian Army, and Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) (the precursors of what is now the Canadian Forces) met the general needs of the services (selection) and were placed in occupations where they would be most able to quickly and effectively perform the required tasks of the war effort (placement). "From the beginning, their efforts were entirely dedicated to serving the central function of the personnel system - providing commanders with men and women who were willing, and, more importantly, able to perform their assigned tasks" (Foster, 1991, p. 6; Foster's emphasis). In October 1939, they met with General A. …

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