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OSS Assessment

Background: In World War II the Office of Strategic Services (predecessor of the CIA) was assigned the task of selecting agents for a variety of espionage jobs. The task was a very difficult assessment problem and they developed a number of creative approaches. Candidates for the OSS were brought to an assessment center (Station S) and put through a variety of individual and team tasks. While at the assessment center candidates were supposed to maintain a cover or false identity (unless given a particular command to be themselves for certain psychological tests).

The Wall Situation

Immediately after the Brook Situation, the same group was taken to a wall and asked to imagine this wall was a barrier they could not go around or look around. Furthermore, behind this wall was a canyon and on the other side was another wall. The situation is that they were trying to escape from Japanese soldiers and must figure out how to get the entire group to the other side, carrying their bazooka (a log). Anything (or one) that fell between the walls was lost. Timing began immediately. Solving the problem required getting quickly to the top to assess the situation and determining a way to measure the gap with available tools in order to decide what could be used to cross it. The same variables were observed as in the Brook Situation.

The Wall SituationUsually the leader was the person who got to the top of the wall first to study the situation-- although he could not maintain his authority if that was all he offered the group.

This task required managing human resources. For example, leaving a large or awkward person as the last to climb up on the wall would result in problems. Having a confident member cross first would help the more timid. At the end of these two tasks the group members generally displayed greater sociability toward each other.


Murphy, K. & Davidshofer, C. (1998). Psychological testing: Principles and applications, 4th Ed., Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

OSS Assessment Staff. (1948). Assessment of men: Selection of personnel for the Office of Strategic Services. NY: Rinehart & Co.

OSS Assessment Page | Psychology Whimsies

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Website created: June 1996. Page Created: March, 1999. Last Modified: August 21, 1999.