One on One... with Sidney Irvine

We dip into the Society member database and pick… Sidney Irvine, former Professor of Differential Psychology, University of Plymouth, and consultant. sidneyirvine.co.uk Includes online extras.

One article from The Psychologist’s forerunner
Norman Dixon’s ‘Who Needs Enemies?’, in volume 37 of the 1984 BPS Bulletin.

One progressive jazz collection
Three CDs: Wait and See; Next Step; Metaphysical Attractions; by the John Irvine Band.

One thing we might be proud of
From 1992, UK army applicants each took a set of five short cognitive tests that were automatically generated to ensure they completed their own unique parallel form set on the day. For more than 25 years the British Army Recruit Battery (BARB) was a recruiting office minor miracle: low costs, automatic updates, no security, theft or compromise issues, millions of tests generated, yet to be matched on a national scale: unequivocally British.

One hope    
That my great BARB team at the Human Assessment Laboratory, Plymouth University, 1985-1995 are always remembered: Jan Collis, Peter Dann, Ian Dennis, Jonathan Evans, Steve Newstead, Patrick Tapsfield, David Wright, et al. Long overdue national accreditation.

One proud moment
In 1967, looking over the Berlin Wall with the late Sam Messick of the Educational Testing Service: and then accepting his offer of a fellowship that changed our lives.

One military psychology ‘law’
Schneider’s 1947 ‘functional necessity’ principle that 70 years on prescribes behaviour towards military recruits in boot camp as a rite of passage.

One fundamental report    
My friend Isaac Bejar’s 1986 brilliant analysis of hidden figure item difficulty using the Hough Transform as an external index of complexity without a respondent in sight. It provides a motto for future item generation. ‘Item development becomes, in effect, a single process once we have written the grammar for the item type in question.’ Here ‘grammar’ is the logic needed to predict item difficulty.

One career question and answer in 1976
What will research on tests be about in next ten years? Jack Carroll’s reply in the Thurstone Laboratory Chapel Hill, NC. ‘What makes items difficult, I guess.’

One handwritten letter
1967, from Sir Cyril Burt showing how the 1930s Penrose-Raven Matrices was ‘Progressive’ because the item difficulties could even then be predicted from their additive features. Moreover he emphasised that J.C. Raven never claimed it was a ‘test of pure g’ in his thesis. In any case, Burt as supervisor ‘would certainly have expunged it from the draft of his M.A. thesis’. Burt, RIP, was right: ‘pure g’ is an oxymoron, while item difficulty is the sine qua non.

One rueful reflection on the BPS 50 years on
Not nearly enough emphasis on reliability and validity; but concentrating on the three clinical Cs – caring, counselling, coaching. Can we predict their effect size on scientific status?

One thing psychologists must do
Ask all the right questions in the right order.

One operatic CD
Kenneth McKellar Sings Handel, 2011.

One miracle of data collection
Access to all USAF ground crew-in-training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, 1997-1999.

One octogenarian challenge
To create multiple parallel forms of personality questionnaires – only programmers need apply!

One literary legacy
Two? The Grampian Quartet by Nan Shepherd and The Scots Quair by Lewis Grassic Gibbon.

One inspiration
Organising, in 1984 with Steve Newstead (former President of the BPS), a NATO Advanced Study meeting in Greece ‘The Shoot-out in Athens’ Lectures by Hans Eysenck, Bob Sternberg, Philip Vernon, Earl Hunt, John Berry and, when not playing the piano, Jack Carroll. A precursor to the British Army Recruit Battery.

One memorable lecture
On 28 November 2003, Craig Irvine presented his research on the carotid artery at the UK Vascular Society meeting in Glasgow; and in recognition for major scientific achievements was awarded The Hunterian Professorship.

One play
The Insect Comedy by Karel and Josef Capek.

One indelible memory
In 1957 during national service at a dinner in the Officers’ Mess RAF Hospital Nocton Hall, as the junior officer present, being called upon to propose the loyal toast to the Queen.

One poem
‘South Hunterdon High, South Hunterdon High, we saw your bright sign as we cruised idly by. So proudly we’ll hail, when the kids are full grown, that they learned their three R’s in a drug-free school zone. But, home of the brave and land of the free, shall they bear their small arms to kill you and me?’ On the Road to New Hope, New Jersey, USA. Written c. 2003?

One conference venue
I have been to many. Choose one from: Dunalastair, Kinloch Rannoch, Scotland; Uxmal, Mexico; Sydney Harbour; Tartu, Estonia; Victoria Falls; Berne, Switzerland; Kingston, Ontario; Bandung, Indonesia; Etosha National Park, Namibia; North Rim Grand Canyon; Rotorua, New Zealand; Ulm, Baden-Württemberg.

One editorial partnership
Unable to quote only one. John Berry (Human Abilities in Cultural Context, Cambridge) and Pat Kyllonen (Item Generation for Test Development, Routledge) are lifelong companions along the publication path.

One roll of honour, chronological
Rex Knight, John Nisbet, Alec Rodger, Simon Biesheuvel, Michael Hannon, Cyril Rogers, Philip Vernon, Sam Messick, Fred Lord, Jack Carroll, Ray Christal, John Anderson.

One sporting commentary
Telling nude mixed-bathing enthusiasts, taxpayer-funded delegates at the 1984 NATO conference in Vougliameni, Greece that I could not get them out of jail if they were caught on the beach by police.

One for the bookshelf
An Introduction to Psychological Statistics by Philip H. Dubois, 1965. There’s no better compendium with simple formulae; understandable by all who graduate statistically innumerate through no fault of their own. And another, for questionnaire psychometrics… Paul Horst, like no other, resolves the artefactual mysteries of correlating normative and ipsative personality scale response patterns in Chapter 13 of Factor Analysis of Data Matrices, 1965.

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