Donald Wallace MacKinnon was born on January 9, 1903 in Augusta, Maine and died at the age of 84 in Stockton, California. MacKinnon was an American psychologist and professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He was primarily known for his research on the psychology of creativity.
After receiving his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1933, he became a professor at Bryn Mawr College, where he remained until 1947. From 1944 to 1946, he went on leave from Bryn Mawr College to direct the United States Office of Strategic Services's Station S during World War II. He joined the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley in 1947, and became the founding director of the Institute of Personality Assessment and Research there in 1949. He remained the Institute's director until 1970, and used the skills he had learned during World War II at the Institute. He was the president of the Division of Personality and Social Psychology from 1951 to 1952, and of the Western Psychological Association from 1963 to 1964. He retired from Berkeley in 1970. In 1973, he began a one-year stint as a visiting fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership and an adjunct professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel
Dr. Donald W. MacKinnon, a psychology professor who formulated controversial theories on creativity and helped select Secret Service agents in World War II, died last Tuesday in a hospital here. He was 84 years old.
Dr. MacKinnon, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley who was an expert on the creative process, recently found that he had Alzheimer's disease.
In World War II, as director of Station S, a remote Maryland farmhouse, he helped single out those he believed would make good spies and leaders of European resistance forces. About 2,500 prospective members of the Office of Strategic Services went through the station.
In 1949, he founded the Institute of Personality Assessment and Research. In 1959, he announced that creative writers and scientists resembled sedate business people. He issued a controversial report in 1961, saying engineering students were materialistic, power-hungry and lacking in creativity.
MacKinnon's first professional publication in psychology was in 1931, and his last in 1981, with over 100 papers, chapters, and books within that span. All of his writing was characterized by impeccable scholarship and graceful expression. Major themes may be noted, including creativity, personality structure, motivation, hypnotizable, and methodological issues in assessment. Some of MacKinnon’s writings achieved classic status and are now standard reading for contemporary psychologists. Examples are:
He was active in editorial work outside of the University, serving at various times on the editorial boards:
While a professorship at Bryn Mawr College, MacKinnon took a leave of absence from 1944-46 to serve as director of Station S in the U.S. Office of Strategic Services in World War II. This organization was originally called the Office of the Coordinator of Information (COI). It was created by President Roosevelt to protect the United States from espionage, sabotage, “black” propaganda, guerrilla warfare, and other “un-American subversive practices.” MacKinnon developed assessments designed to identify persons who were “the best fit” for service within the OSS.
In 1949, MacKinnon became the founding Director of the Assessment Center, the Institute of Personality Assessment and Research (IPAR). This research program encompassed the study of the person within cultural, institutional, organizational and societal contexts. The center aim at the time was to apply an intensive, multi-method assessment program intended to gain an understanding of individuals who display outstanding personal effectiveness in their careers and lives.
Baumeister, R. F. (1991). Dialogue. Retrieved from Society for Personality and Social Psychology: http://spsp.org/sites/default/files/dialogue62.pdf
MacKinnon, D. W. (1987). Some Critical Issues For Future Research in Creativity. The Creative Educator Foundation, Inc., 120-130.
MacKinnon, D. W. (1994). How Assessment Centers Were Started in the United States. Pittsburg: Development Dimensions International, Inc.,.
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