History of Psychology: America’s First eHarmony
It all started with the Marital Rating Scale.
Physician and psychologist George W. Crane, MD, PhD (1901-95) created a questionnaire called the Marital Rating Scale in the 1930s to help couples assess their marriages. (Crane maintained a private practice and wrote the newspaper column “The Worry Clinic.”)
According to an article in APA’s Monitor on Psychology, to create his scale, Crane asked 600 husbands about their wives’ positive and negative attributes. (Husbands were also questioned, so there’s a scale for them, too.) Then he listed the 50 qualities that came up most often. While Crane tried to make the process scientific, he “did admit to using a personal bias in weighting the items that he thought were most important in marriage.”
How did the scale work?
According to the article:
“For instance, if your wife ‘uses slang or profanity,’ she would get a score of five demerits. On the other hand, if she ‘reacts with pleasure and delight to marital congress,’ she would receive 10 merits. The test taker would add up the total number of merits and demerits to receive a raw score, which would categorize the wife on a scale from ‘very poor’ to ‘very superior.’”
Other demerits included: “slow in coming to bed — delays ‘til husband is almost asleep,” “doesn’t like children,” “wears red nail polish” and “goes to bed with curlers in her hair and much face cream.”
The merits included: “can carry on an interesting conversation,” “can play a musical instrument as piano, violin, etc.,” “personally puts children to bed” and “lets husband sleep late on Sundays and holidays.”
In the husband’s chart, the demerits included: “stares at or flirts with other women while out with wife,” “compares wife unfavorably with his mother or other wives,” “leaves dresser drawers open” and “snores.”
Merits included: “gives wife ample allowance or turns pay check over to her,” “helps wife with dishes, caring for children, scrubbing,” “reads newspaper, books or magazines aloud to wife” and “consults wife’s opinion re business and social affairs.”
While some of this might seem startling or silly to us today, his ideas, according to the article, were well received around the country. (Of course, that was a much different time.)
In 1957, Crane applied his scientific approach to another interesting venture. He established a matchmaking service called the Scientific Marriage Foundation, which the Monitor on Psychology article called a “sort of a low-tech version of the popular matchmaking Web site eHarmony.”
Male and female applicants completed detailed forms, which were sent to an IBM sorting machine. Interestingly, religious leaders, including priests, ministers and rabbis, also had input in the process. They provided their own observations about applicants, which were used in the matching.
The Scientific Marriage Foundation only lasted three years. But, according to the foundation, it apparently led to 5,000 marriages.
The Scientific Marriage Foundation wasn’t the only one of its kind. You can read about a computerized dating service called Operation Match, which was started by three Harvard college students. And here’s some information about computer dating in general in the 60s.
Below you’ll find the rating scales for wives and husbands.
Had you ever heard of the Scientific Marriage Foundation? Do you know anything else about Crane’s work? What do you think would be on today’s marital rating scales?
Photo by Zitona, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.
Tartakovsky, M. (2018). History of Psychology: America’s First eHarmony. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 7, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/history-of-psychology-americas-first-eharmony/