Jane Loevinger

An American developmental psychologist known for her contributions to psychometrics and her theory of ego development.

Jane Loevinger was born on February 6, 1918, in St. Paul, Minnesota. She was the third of five children of Gustavus Loevinger, a German immigrant, lawyer, and district court judge, and Millie (Strause) Loevinger, a part-time schoolteacher and pianist. Jane Loevinger graduated magna cum laude in psychology from the University of Minnesota at age 19. A year later, in 1939, she earned her master's degree in psychometrics. Ironically, when she first enrolled at the university, this woman who would go on to make significant contributions to quantitative psychology was told that psychology was “too mathematical” for her.

Inspired by an address given by Edward Tolman at the American Psychological Association convention, Loevinger entered a doctoral program at the University of California at Berkeley. She studied psychoanalysis with Erik Erikson, Else FrenkelBrunswik, and Nevitt Sanford and statistics with Jerzy Neyman. She worked as a research assistant for Erikson, who was conducting his famous studies of gender differences in young children's play. Loevinger taught at Berkeley and Stanford University. She earned her Ph.D. in 1944, with a dissertation entitled “Construction and Evaluation of Tests of Ability.” It was a critique of contemporary psychometric theory and test reliability and introduced the coefficient of test homogeneity into measurement theory. It became a classic in the field.

In 1943, Loevinger married Samuel Isaac Weissman (1912–2007), a postdoctoral researcher in Robert Oppenheimer's lab. Weissman followed Oppenheimer to Los Alamos, New Mexico, to work on the Manhattan Project that was developing the atomic bomb. After finishing her dissertation, Loevinger joined her husband there. Their two children, Judith and Michael Benjamin, were born at Los Alamos.

When Weissman joined the chemistry department of Washington University in St. Louis, Loevinger, like so many women in postwar America, was unable to obtain a professional appointment. She taught parttime in the psychology department and worked on Air Force research grants. In the end, she decided to strike out on her own. With funds from the National Institute of Mental Health, Loevinger formed her own research group, becoming one of the first psychologists to focus on women's experiences and their unique problems. Specifically, Loevinger developed protocols for measuring women's attitudes. Finally in 1961, Washington University appointed her associate research professor of psychology. In 1970, Loevinger's group published the Washington University Sentence Completion Test, which was designed to assess female moral development, interpersonal relationships, and conceptual complexity. It became a widely used assess-mentand was eventually adapted for males as well. In 1973, Loevinger was promoted to a tenured full professorship.

Theory of ego development

Loevinger is best known for her research on the psychology of ego development, an extension of her work on assessments of moral understanding. She published numerous books and papers on the subject. Her ego development model, which was measured and validated by her standardized sentence-completion test, has had a major influence on the psychology of personality, which Loevinger viewed as the gradual internalization of social rules and the maturation of conscience for making personal decisions.

Loevinger's three primary stages of ego development are impulse control, the interpersonal mode, and conscious preoccupations. She described this as the movement from impulsivity, to actions based on internal codes and morals, to mature focus on internal feelings and goals, with individuals moving through the different stages at different levels of development. Loevinger introduced the idea that the essence of ego is the striving to master, understand, organize, and integrate experience and that one's sense of self or ego is in constant flux depending on experiences and challenges.

In 1985, Loevinger was awarded the first William R. Stuckenberg Professorship in Human Values, which the St. Louis businessman endowed explicitly for her. She became emeritus professor in 1988, but remained active in research and continued to publish. Loevinger died on January 4, 2008. Her papers are archived at the Drs. Nicholas and Dorothy Cummings Center for the History of Psychology at the University of Akron.

See also Maslow, Abraham.



Hy, Le Xuan, and Jane Loevinger. Measuring Ego Development. 2nd ed. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 1996.

Loevinger, Jane. “History of the Sentence Completion Test (SCT) for Ego Development.” In Technical Foundations for Measuring Ego Development: The Washington University Sentence Completion Test, edited by Jane Loevinger. Mahway, NJ: Erlbaum, 1998.

Loevinger, Jane. Paradigms of Personality. New York: Freeman, 1987.

Loevinger, Jane, and Augusto Blasi. Ego Development: Conceptions and Theories. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1976.


Larson, Randy J. “Jane Loevinger (1918–2008).” American Psychologist 63 (2008): 618. http://media.leidenuniv.nl/legacy/LoevingerObituaryAmericanPsychologist.pdf (accessed August 22, 2015).

Loevinger, J. “Confessions of an Iconoclast: At Home on the Fringe.” Journal of Personality Assessment 78, no. 2 (2002): 195–208.

Loevinger, J. “Objective Tests as Instruments of Psychological Theory.” Psychological Reports 3 (1957): 635–94.

Loevinger, J. “The Technic of Homogeneous Tests Compared with Some Aspects of Scale Analysis and Factor Analysis.” Psychological Bulletin 45 (1948): 507–29.


Bonin, Angela. “Jane Loevinger's States of Ego Development.” examiner.com. January 22, 2012. http://www.examiner.com/article/jane-loevinger-s-stages-of-egodevelopment (accessed August 22, 2015).

Loevinger, Jane. “Jane Loevinger Papers.” Drs. Nicholas and Dorothy Cummings Center for the History of Psychology, University of Akron. http://cdm15960.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15960coll10/id/254/rec/225 (accessed August 24, 2015).

Nakhjiri, Zahra Shabzandehdar. “Profile: Jane Loevinger.” Psychology's Feminist Voices. 2010. http://www.feministvoices.com/jane-loevinger (accessed August 22, 2015).