My opinion

By Dr. Joseph O Prewitt Diaz
Corresponding Author Dr. Joseph O Prewitt Diaz
CSM, Quintas Las Muesas, 240, Francisco Colon Julia - Puerto Rico 00736
Submitting Author Dr. Joseph O Prewitt Diaz

Dr. Carlos Albizu Miranda, Psychologist, Visionary, Universidad Carlos Albizu Miranda

Prewitt Diaz JO. Dr. Carlos Albizu Miranda: A Systemic Analysis. WebmedCentral PSYCHOLOGY 2011;2(12):WMC001212
doi: 10.9754/journal.wmc.2011.001212

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License(CC-BY), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
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Submitted on: 18 Dec 2011 10:03:36 PM GMT
Published on: 19 Dec 2011 03:39:35 PM GMT


There is an attempt to develop a holistic analysis of the life and contributions of Dr. Carlos Albizu Miranda to the history of Psychology of Puerto Rico, and what has been his legacy to the World. Most of the commentaries after his transition in 1984 focus on his interest to develop a “Psicología Puertorriqueña”. No human being acts as moved by the spirit or the psyche. The environment, and the person’s perception of that environment, has a direct bearing on the actions of that person. Such was the case with “Don Charlie” as many of us called him. I was blessed by the words of wisdom of this man, now it is my turn to share another perception of his work. 


A dynamic man in a changing world

As had occurred to many, Don Carlos joined the U.S. Army and upon his return he found a country on the move. Don Luis Munoz Marin, the first elected governor of Puerto Rico, had set the tone for the future, the image of the “Puertorriqueño (jibaro) eñangotaó” was over, the day for the “Puertorriqueño (jibaro) agusaó” was upon us. Don Luis called for “civic engagement”. The operationalization of this vision was a people who became (1) socio-politically active, (2) had a sense of civic responsibility, (3) embraced voluntarism, and (4) developed a tolerance for diversity.
Puerto Rico was rapidly changing. Don Charlie completed his bachelor’s degree at UPR, gaining one of the insight that would change his professional development: testing of Puerto Rican children with instruments developed in a language other than our native Spanish and with norms developed for a totally different population would not apply in Puerto Rico. Some of his early works with the Department of Education of Puerto Rico were witness to this wrestless feeling[1]
The Division of Community Education was developed. Fred Wales at the helm and Carmen Isales gave themselves to the task of educating the Puerto Rican populace into there new role of active actors and masters of the life. University students were reading La Vida[2], Social class and social change in Puerto Rico[3], and The Family and population control[4] as part of the General Studies curricula. Psychiatrist were trying to study the “Puerto Rican syndrome”[5][6], “Nervios”, “susto” y “mal de pelea.” In the mid-sixties Dr. Efren Ramirez studied the emerging use of drugs in Puerto Rico, established the “Centro de Investigación Sobre la Adicción”. The School of Public Health were studying in conjunction with their peers in the United States cultural considerations for childhood disorders[7].
[1] Albizu, C. & Stanton, H. (1964). Factores psicosociales en la rehabilitación vocacional del retardo mental adulto. Educación, 13 (11), 37-50.
[2] Lewis, O. (1965). La Vida: A Puerto Rican family in the culture of poverty. New York, NY: Random House.
[3] Tumin, M. & Feldman, A.S. (1961). Social class and social change in Puerto Rico. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
[4] Hill, R., Stycos, M.J. & Back, K (1959). The family and population control: A Puerto Rican experiment in social change. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.
[5] Veterans Administration (1956) “‘Ataques,’ Hyperkinetic Type: The So-Called Puerto Rican Syndrome,” Washington, D.C.: Veterans Administration.
[6] Fernandez Marina, R. (1961) The Puerto Rican syndrome: Its dynamic and cultural determinants. Psychiatry. (24) 79-82.
[7]. Canino, I., Canino, G. & Arroyo, W. (1998). Cultural Considerations for Childhood Disorders: How Much was Included in DSM-IV? Teranscultural Psychiatry. 35(3), 343-355.

A man at the crossroads takes the high road

With this challenge, Don Charlie the young professional went to the Minnesota to work on his Master’s degree. While he studied in Minnesota, two professor (McKinley & Hathaway) influenced his work. This two researcher were the instrumental force in the development and cross-cultural validation of an instrument called the Minnesota Multiphasic Inventory[8]. Dr. Albizu Miranda’s Masters thesis was related to the Bernreuter personality inventory that was adapted as a subtest of the MMPI[9].
Young “Don Carlos” came back to Puerto Rico with a new knowledge: (1) cross cultural research, that translated in the new Puerto Rican reality, into a knowledge that translated instruments, methodologies, and techniques brought from the outside were not necessarily applicable to the reality of the Puerto Rican, and classism[10],[11] and racism impacted the way in which the world view of a human being were impacted and reflected in psychometric tools. He had two challenges at the time: (1) develop a Psychology program in the University of Puerto Rico that addressed the needs of the Puerto Rican psychologists, and (2) psychometric instruments had be linguistically and culturally appropriate to the needs of the Puerto Rican children.While at Purdue University in Indiana, he focused on projective measures and sharpened his academic and practical skills in test and measurement and personality psychology. Upon his return to Puerto Rico he heralded for the development of a Graduate Program in Psychology at the University of Puerto Rico that would prepare these professionals to address the needs of Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico: culturally, linguistically and conceptually.
He proceeded to change the academic environment and in the decade of the sixties he took several steps to move his agenda forward. He left the University of Puerto Rico and founded the “Instituto Psicológico de Puerto Rico” and the “Centro Caribeño de Estudios Post Graduados”. By the beginning of the decade of the 70’s Puerto Rican psychology had developed solid foundations. He also forged ahead with a research agenda, issues of assessment were important to tackle since they affected the way people would be clinically categorized. He knew that there was a need to include cultural and environmental aspects in assessment schemes for both adults and children.
[8]. Hathaway, S. R., & McKinley, J. C. (1942). A multiphasic personality schedule (Minnesota): III. The measurement of symptomatic depression. Journal of Psychology, 14, 73-84
[9]. Albizu Miranda, C. (1950). An Experimental study of middle-class bias in the Bernreuter personality inventory. Unpublished Master’s thesis, University of Minnesota. The Bernreuter Personality Inventory (1933), was hugely popular despite telling research failures. The fundamental problem with the Bernreuter lay in the strategy of its construction. The composition of the test items was guided by rational considerations applied to textbooks or case histories on the assumption that subjects would respond to the items as expert opinion suggested they should.
[10]. Hoffman, M.L. & Albizu Mirnada, C. (1955). Middle class bias in personality testing. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology. 51(1), 150-152.
[11]. Albizu Miranda, C. (1953). The influence of social class membership upon the selection of certain rorschach factors. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Purdue University.

One man with one idea can change the world

The article “Atisbos en la personalidad Puertorriqueña” (Albizu Miranda & Torres, 1958) began to identify some specifics of the personality of the Puerto Rican. This seminal article has motivated hundreds of psychologist in Puerto Rico and Puerto Rican psychologist and psychiatrist in other parts of the world to study the Puerto Rican in different cultural milieus.
In the early days Don Carlos and two colleagues, Norman Matlin, a specialist in mental retardation and rehabilitation, and Howard Stanton and anthropologist began to conduct studies that involved large numbers of young Puerto Rican professionals. For example in the early 60’s this three scholars engaged a group of twenty (20) young psychologists to study the prevalence of mental retardation in Puerto Rico[12],[13]. The study was conducted with a sample of 4,771 using the Stanford-Binet Form L and a vocabulary test. They found the determination of intelligence quotient was depended on cultural and economic deprivation. The economically successful was a function of the complexity of the community. They concluded that environmental factors were better predictors of success and reported positive self-images than tests such as those administered to this sample. The other important success story is that the research assistants and psychometrics are now psychologist[14] serving the people of Puerto Rico.
In 1964-1968, Albizu Miranda and Stanton (1966) participated with other scholars in the study of communication, creativity and problem solving ability in three societies (San Juan, Puerto Rico, Minneapolis, Minnesota and Bombay, India.[15] The National Science Foundation, the University of Minnesota, and the United States Educational Foundation of India financed the study. The study concluded that the difference in problem solving ability, as well as restricted working-class communication and creativity are similar in all three societies, despite vast cultural differences. However, the more urbanized and industrialized the society the smaller the social class differences in problem solving ability.
In the years to follow the decade of the 60’s the groundwork of Albizu Miranda and his associates defined the nature of Puerto Rican psychology, its content, the form of study, and the strategic synergies with other disciplines to best understand the psychosocial phenomena impacting the people of Puerto Rico.
[12] Albizu Miranda, C., Matlin, N. & Stanton, H.R. (1966). The successful retardate. A study sponsored by the Vocational Rehabilitation Administration (DHEW), Washington, D.C. (ERIC 027-650).
[13] Albizu Miranda, C. (1966). Factores psicosociales en la rehabilitación vocacional del retardo mental adulto. Educación. 13(11), 37-50.
[14] See list of the members of the Puerto Rico Psychological Association.
[15] Strauss, M.A. (1968). Communication, creativity, and problem solving ability of middle- and working class families in three societies. JSTOR-The American Journal of Sociology, 73(4), 417-430. Eudaldo Baez-Galib fue uno de los psicologos Puertorriquenos que participaron en este estudio.


Don Charlie was challenged by the changes that Puerto Rico was undergoing since he had gotten back from his military service. He assumed his civic responsibility by preparing himself academically and experimentally to understand the task of a new professional in the field of psychology. Through his work in Puerto Rico and at VA hospitals in the States he was able to embrace diversity. His cross-cultural studies are evidenced by engaging his students and colleagues in understanding Puerto Rico vis-a-vis Minnesota and India. He became socio-politically engaged as evidenced by his efforts to develop programs, institutes and a university to prepare Puerto Rican psychologists. I am a product of how he embraced voluntarism; he spent many more hours than necessary, to nurture my intellect and my being, to make me a good psychologist. This is not a random act of kindness but the modus operandi of a great man.

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