Anastasi studied at Barnard College, and then earned her doctorate at the age of 21 from Columbia University under supervision from Henry Edward Garrett (1894–1973).
Anastasi taught at Barnard College and Queens College, where she would be the psychology department’s chairperson, before joining Fordham University in 1947. It was at Fordham where she would spend the remainder of her long and successful academic career. Anastasi’s early mathematical aptitude translated easily into the world of psychological measurement and, influenced by the work of both Leta Stetter Hollingsworth (1886–1939) and Charles Spearman (1863–1945), she developed a nationwide reputation as an expert – as well as a critic – regarding standardized testing.
Anastasi cautioned against the interpretation of test scores as indicative of primarily genetically-based ability and stressed the importance of environment, nurturing, and learning as components of intelligence testing. Long before the boom in test-prep courses for standardized educational assessments, Anastasi wrote of the dangers coaching presented to the integrity of all standardized tests. Anastasi’s conception of test validity as a living document of sorts stands in sharp contrast to how tests are often presented to the public. Anastasi was also an early advocate for the cultural relativism of intelligence, arguing that since different cultures value different aspects of the global concept of intelligence, the very concept of a “culture free” intelligence test is a misleading one.
A prolific author with more than 150 publications to her name, Anastasi’s most indelible contributions outside of Fordham University were two influential textbooks, Differential Psychology (first published in 1937), and Psychological Testing (first published in 1954) [2, 3]. These works have appeared in multiple editions, been translated in several languages, and have been used around the globe. References to them still appear in testing literature, and Anastasi’s colleagues remember her as an author with justifiable pride in her meticulous attention to both detail and style [1, 4, 5].
A leader as well as an influential author and scholar, Anastasi’s multiple professional presidential positions were capped with her 1972 presidency of the American Psychological Association. She was an avid consultant and committee member for both government and private industries, and received honorary doctorates from Villanova University and University of Windsor, among others. The recipient of multiple awards from both academia and professional organizations for her work in testing and education, Anastasi also received the National Medal of Science in 1987 from President Ronald Reagan.
Anastasi enriches psychology with multiple legacies. On the one hand, her important literary contributions to the textbooks of testing and assessment are reminiscent of William James’ (1842–1910) contributions to general psychology in that her books are well-written, definitive, and influential upon both practitioners and students alike. Her well-reasoned arguments regarding the misinterpretations of test scores are still timely, continuing the resonance her works still possess. Her many dignified leadership positions provide powerful models for other leaders of professional organizations to emulate, and her list of accolades is astonishing. It is even more astounding that for much of Anastasi’s early life, women in the USA faced extreme barriers in pursuing careers in mainstream academic psychology. Anastasi’s exemplary accomplishments are even more inspirational within this context.