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Psychotechnique et morale

Comité théologique de Lyon


La nature des procédés modernes d'investigation de la personne humaine pose des problèmes d'ordre moral et social sur lesquels le Comité théologique de Lyon attire l'attention dans cet article. Une définition de la psychotechnique en soulignant les conditions actuelles de ses applications amène à l'examen des questions morales que cette nouvelle technique soulève, des droits et devoirs que possèdent le psychotechnicien, l'employeur et les travailleurs eux-mêmes dans ce domaine.


Psycho-technique and Ethics

The main objective of psycho-technique takes its inspiration from principles that have long been admitted, among which "the right man at the right place" is one. What this new technique brings that is really new is the methods that it mobilizes in the service of this old ideal, methods of investigation of the human personality inspired by the recent acquisitions of psychological science. The nature of these modern procedures of which more and more use is being made in the labour world, cause problems of an ethical order to which we must give consideration.

I—What is Psycho-technique?

The first ambition of psycho-technique was to give exact information on professional aptitudes. However, the field of investigation of the psycho-technician was widened by the force of circumstances. At this point all psychology was called upon to contribute to the knowledge of the individual as a whole. From a simple examination of work aptitudes, it has proceded to a1 temps to probe all the constituent factors of the personality and this in connection with vocational guidance or selection. Even if we should confine ourselves to the ethical aspect of the question, in order to be realistic, the ethical judgment must take into account other aspects: scientific, economic, social, juridical, political and ethical. All these points of view overlap each other and each one offers angles of an ethical nature.

II—The Ethical Problems of Psycho-technique

1. Psycho-technician remains in the first place the specialist who examines and measures the individual aptitudes, the capacity for professional work from the angle of their efficiency. The psychotechnician, being a man, must act in accordance to ethics. The scientific conscience thus becomes for him an obligation of individual and social justice.

2. From the fact that the psycho-technician penetrates further into the intimacy of the people he examines, further obligations are imposed on him. He is obliged to show discretion which is equivalent to the most strict professional secret.

3. An instrument as sensitive as that which opens slightly the secrets of the human subconsciousness, requires for its use, a highly-developed skill and preparation. Errors become much more serious in this field and more harmful. Whereas the one who spontaneously seeks out the psychiatrist of psycho-analyst offers himself voluntarily for examination and gives him of his own free will any information, no matter how intimate, in the professional sector, the situation changes completely when the psycho-technique intervenes at the employer's request. It violates a natural right of the human person, the right to the secret of his inner being. It is for this reason that there exists certain fundamental rights and obligations of the psycho-technician, of the employer and of society.

Ill—Rights and Obligations of the Psycho-technician

The professional conscience requires the psycho-technician to acquire sufficient formation; to study conscientiously his investigations; that he base his verdicts on tests which have been proved; that he does not formulate his observations which he communicates to others or the subject himself in such ambiguous terms that they may cause serious trouble; that he does not reveal to a third person condidential or intimate information; that he does not lend himself to interested calculation on the part of the employer; that he treats the exercise of his profession as a social service. The psycho-technician has therefore the right to refuse to help in certain circumstances, to insist in the necessary time to make thorough investigations, to establish such conditions as will permit him to live from his work, while keeping the necessary independence of judgment.

IV—Rights and Obligations of the Employer

The employer has the right to make use of the services of a competent psycho-technician for the professional examination of possible future employees, for a subsequent selection of manual or intellectual workers. He has not, however, the right to impose on his employees as a condition of employment, psychological examinations which probe their inner personality, to require from the psycho-technician, the communication of observations of an intimate nature, without the consent of those interested, to force the specialist to make too rapid examinations, to place the responsibility on the psycho-technician alone of hiring, refusing or laying-off the personnel. The employer has the obligation of assuming his social responsibilities as a human partner with the employees who are men and not machines, to make discreet use, respecting personal secrecy and only to hire competent psycho-technicians.

V Rights and Obligations of the Workers

The psycho-technique is made to serve the employee as much as the employer and the whole of society. Its inconsidered use may, however, cause serious injury to the workers, as its use by incompetent "amateurs", its commercialization by unscrupulous profiteers, its organization as a private service of enterprises in the larger industries. It herefore seems necessary to establish a legal basis for psycho-technique which is gradually becoming a public service.

VI—Towards a Legal Basis for Psycho-technique

In fact, it would appear at present to be necessary to consider the interference of the State, for the workers:

  1. to guarantee the right of the candidate to a counter-appraisal;

  2. to limit the zone of investigation to the professional aptitudes and psychological factors in close connection with them;

  3. to impose on the psycho-technicians the obligation of the professional secret.

For the psycho-technician:

  1. to forbid the exercise of the profession without the necessary qualifications;

  2. to enlarge this prior formation of the psycho-technician so that he would be a complete psychologist in all aspects of human life, personal and social.

For the employers:

  1. to replace the present system, by a public service of psycho-technique;

  2. to avoid the State succeeding the present anarchy by establishing the psycho-technique on a professional basis under the control of the State.