War and Psychological Thought: World War II and its Effect on People

World War 2 was a turning point in the field of psychology. Up until that time the science was largely seen as an academic and some what philosophical discipline with little practical utility. With the advent of psychological warfare and military screening assessments, governments found the need to use psychology as an applied science during the war, kind of what they did during the first world war. Additionally, the war created a need for the critical treatment of soldiers with resulting mental health issues.

Introduced for the first time in World War One, psychologists implemented screening processes which they hoped would see which soldier exhibited appropriate mental fitness to cope with the stress of war. The military wanted to avoid the incidence of shell shock, the very same situation that occurred during the first world war. They believed, through testing that they could screen out the men that were most easiest to break down. Although the measures were found to be unsuccessful in preventing mental health issues, the psychometric testing that was developed set the stage for the growth in psychological assessment that occurred after the war.

At the beginning of the war military officials hoped that screening measures would eliminate the psychological issues that soldiers experienced during World War One but that logic proved to be faulty and many more war-related health issues developed. Wanting to return soldiers to the front lines some doctors implemented psychiatric treatment in order to help soldiers cope successfully with the trauma of war. The use of psychiatric treatment during the war paved the way for the growing popularity of clinical interventions seen in its aftermath.

World War 2 posters, Springwell Community Centre by Andrew Curtis is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

Although somewhat controversial, both the Allies and the Axis powers used psychological means to boost or hurt the other’s morale during the war. Psychological warfare preys upon the weakness of soldier in order to gain an advantage. Spreading propaganda and utilizing deception were found to be useful tools in gaining a strategic and tactical edge. Psychologists, touting their experiences in the human condition, were were used to develop these techniques that happen to work a majority of the time. In addition to its effectiveness, psychological warfare served as another indication that psychological principles could exhibit clinical applications.

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