January/February Newsletter


History of the Society for Personality Assessment

Barry Ritzler, Ph.D.

The annual convention for the Society for Personality Assessment will be held in San Francisco this month. Consequently, it seems appropriate to present a history of the Society.

The Society began in 1937 as a group of graduate students of psychology at Columbia University taught by Bruno Klopfer who had joined the faculty after escaping from the Nazis. Klopfer initially taught a one-semester course on the Rorschach, but the students liked it so much that they asked for more instruction. Unfortunately, the faculty did not think a second semester of Rorschach training was warranted. As a result, Klopfer invited the students to his apartment in the Columbia neighborhood for an informal seminar. The group became known as the “Klopfer Kitchen Group” and included individuals who later became noted Rorschach experts. Some of the attendees were Florence Miale, Zygmunt Piotrowski, Marguerite Hertz, and Molly Harrower.

The group formed an organization they first called the Rorschach Institute and published a newsletter, The Rorschach Exchange, that presented Rorschach studies conducted by Klopfer. Later, the publication became the Journal of Personality Assessment and Projective Techniques and finally was re-named the Journal of Personality Assessment. After Bruno Klopfer himself, the editor was Walter Klopfer (Bruno’’s son). The first officers were Bruno Klopfer (director), Morris Krugman (president), Douglas Kelley (vice president), Ruth Wolfson (secretary), and Gladys Tallman (treasurer).

In 1948, the name of the Society was changed to the Society for Projective Tests and the Rorschach Institute. In 1960, the name was changed again to the Society for Projective Techniques. The current name, the Society for Personality Assessment was adopted in 1971.

By-laws for the organization were drawn up in 1939. They were later revised under the guidance of Charles Spielberger who was president at the time. A 50th anniversary convention was held in 1989 in New York City to honor the founding of the Society. At that time, John Exner and Anne O’Roarke published a directory and history of the Society. By then, the Society had over 1,000 members in the United States and other countries.

After beginning in New York City, the Society and the Journal moved to the state of Oregon and then Florida. For a while, the organization was housed in the American Psychological Association building in Washington, D.C. Currently it is located in a townhouse office in Falls Church, Virginia.

The Society holds its yearly convention in major locations in the United States. It moves from the East Coast (e.g., Washington, D.C. and New York City), to the West Coast (e.g., San Diego and San Francisco), and the central part of the country (e.g., Chicago and New Orleans). The Society publishes the Journal of Personality Assessment and gives several awards (e.g., the Bruno Klopfer award for the best research published in the Journal and the Marguerite Hertz award given in posthumous honor to a major contributor to personality assessment.).

The Society now has members from many countries outside the United States with a focus on such methods as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, the Rorschach, apperception tests and other methods for personality assessment.

Going Forward
We apologize for the lateness of this newsletter but promise to be on time for the remainder of the year. We are looking forward to publishing a number of interesting articles from International guest contributors.

Unfortunately due to travel and conflicting schedules planning for 2017 programs has become difficult. Watch the Newsletter for a program announcement; however, training programs might be delayed for a year. In any case, know that we are always willing to consider conducting a private program if requested.