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Yerkes Brigham and group intelligence tests

Terman and Goddard had introduced intelligence testing to America. Soon, world events would turn it into a national priority. In 1917, the year after Terman first published the Stanford-Binet, the United States entered World War I. Like many other Americans, psychologist Robert Yerkes was eager to serve his country. As president of the American Psychological Association, he also wanted show the value of the young science he represented. Yerkes set up committees to explore the military uses of psychology. He made himself chairman of a committee that was charged with developing an intelligence test for matching military recruits to the right jobs. Terman and Goddard were included among the other psychologists named to the committee. The task Yerkes had taken on was extremely difficult, however. First, given the sheer number of recruits, the individual testing method developed by Binet and refined by Terman would not have been practical. A whole new kind of group intelligence test, which...

Stern and the intelligence quotient

Today, the terms intelligence test and IQ test are often used interchangeably. Therefore, many people assume incorrectly that Binet came up with the idea of an intelligence quotient (IQ), a single number for expressing the overall result on an intelligence test. This distinction actually goes to German psychologist William Stern. In fact, Binet resisted the idea of reducing a person's intelligence to a single number. When Stern introduced the concept of IQ in 1912, Binet was no longer alive to complain. But his coauthor, Simon, later called the IQ concept a betrayal of their original ideas.

Intelligence testing


Main points Most of Yerkes's research was done in animals. A detour from this path, however, led to a lasting achievement the development of the first tests of mental ability designed to be given to large groups of people. This accomplishment paved the way for the mass intelligence testing that is still a very common practice in American schools. Yerkes wanted to show that psychology could be not only practical, but also as rigorous as chemistry or physics. The new field of intelligence testing seemed to be a fast track to both of these goals. Yerkes had some background in the field. He and his colleagues had just devised a method for converting the Binet-Simon test into a point scale. He also benefited from the assistance of several leading experts on intelligence testing. Nevertheless, the task he took on was Herculean. In very short order, he and his committee devised two new tests for use with Army recruits. Unlike previous intelligence tests, these assessments would be given to...

Multiitem Questionnaires

One of the main objections to the use of single items in global questions is that latent variables covering constructs such as QoL, role functioning and emotional functioning, are complex and ill-defined. Different people may have different ideas as to their meaning. Multi-item scales are often used when trying to measure latent variables such as these. Many aspects of scale development have their origins in psychometric testing. For example, from the earliest days it was accepted that intelligence could not be defined and measured using a single-question intelligence test. Thus multiple questions were recognised to be necessary to cover the broad range of aspects of intelligence (such as verbal, spatial, and inductive intelligence). An intelligence test is therefore an example of a multi-item test that attempts to measure a postulated construct. Under the latent variable model we assume that the data structure can be divided up into a number of hypothetical constructs, such that each...

Research on the nature of intelligence

Whatever it is that intelligence tests measure, though, the tests seem to work best for predicting academic success. In study after study, intelligence test scores have been found to have a correlation of 0.4 to 0.6 (on a 0 to 1 scale) with school grades. Statistically speaking, this is considered a moderate to large correlation. But even a test that predicts school grades with a correlation of 0.5, however, still accounts for only 25 of the variation in school performance among individual students. This means that 75 of the variation is due to other factors. Clearly, the kind of intelligence that is measured on IQ tests is not the only predictor of academic performance. Other factors, such as good schools and high individual motivation, also seem to count for a lot. Once researchers moved beyond the classroom and into the workplace, the predictive power of intelligence tests grew even weaker. In general, studies have found correlations between IQ scores and work performance of about...

Relevance to modern readers

Until recently, two-thirds of school districts in the United States used group intelligence tests on a routine basis to screen 90 of their students. The remaining 10 were given individual tests. Over the last few decades, though, concerns over the potential for error and bias have curtailed the routine use of group tests. Many states have passed laws banning the use of group test scores alone for placing children in different educational tracks. Nevertheless, group intelligence test scores are still sometimes used by school districts for educational planning. The scores can also identify children who might need more detailed assessment with individual tests. Such children include not only those with developmental and learning disabilities but also those with special gifts. Thanks to Terman, the idea of IQ as an index of giftedness is firmly rooted in American society. Yet Binet himself had doubts about the ability of intelligence tests to identify gifted or talented individuals, and...

Definitions of Intelligence

While intelligence tests of some sort appeared in human history as early as the Old Testament book ofJudges (7 3-7, 12 6), which indicates that early Jewish society used questions and observations in personnel selection, the intelligence test as it is known today can be traced to Renaissance Europe. In 1575, the Spanish physician Juan Huarte wrote Examen de Ingenios, a treatise concerning individual differences in mental ability with suggestions for appropriate tests. His work, and that of other investigators and theorists, was the result of the rise of a middle class with aspirations to productive employment. Previously, the aristocracy had controlled everything, and fitness for a position was determined by lineage. Once this monarchical rule began to break down, other means were necessary for determining who was fit for a particular occupation and what might be the most productive use of a person's abilities. When it became apparent that royal blood was no guarantee of competence,...

Thurstone and the structure of intelligence

Binet Theory Strengths And Weaknesses

Spearman had proposed the existence of a unifying factor called general intelligence. He believed that all of the variation in intelligence test scores could be explained by the pervasive influence of general intelligence, combined with specific effects that were unique to the particular test activity at hand. Thurstone developed new statistical methods, and when he applied them to intelligence test scores, he noted that mental abilities tended to cluster into several groups rather than just one. In 1938, Thurstone published a book titled Primary Mental Abilities, in which he proposed that there were actually seven clusters of mental abilities. He called the clusters verbal comprehension, word fluency, number facility, spatial visualization, associative memory, perceptual speed, and reasoning. Boy taking a Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children (WISC) test, a common intelligence test. (Copyright Lew Boy taking a Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children (WISC) test, a common...

Binet compared to Terman

Binet's method of intelligence testing was an excellent match for Terman's own interests and background. With Binet's work as a starting point, Terman made great strides in refining the intelligence test. One way he did this was by focusing on standardization, the process of test development in which a test is given to a representative sample of individuals under clearly specified conditions, and the results are scored and interpreted according to set criteria. The goal is to spell out a standardized method of giving, scoring, and interpreting the test in the future. This approach helps to ensure that as much as possible of the variance in scores is caused by true differences in individual ability, and not by differences in the testing situation. It is not just the standardization sample that needs to reflect the whole test population, however. The test materials need to do so as well. Otherwise, the test may be biased against those who find the materials less familiar or relevant....

Spearman and general intelligence

Around the same time that Binet introduced his intelligence test, English psychologist Charles Spearman published his own theory of intelligence. It, too, was at odds with Binet's concepts. Yet in later years, Spearman's ideas, like those of Galton and Cattell, were often promoted using Binet's test.

Group differences in intelligence

Yerkes reached three controversial conclusions based on data gathered with the Army intelligence tests. First, he claimed that the average mental age in the United States was a mere 13 years. Second, he said there were genetically based racial differences in intelligence, with whites outperforming blacks. Third, he said there were also genetically based ethnic differences in intelligence within the white population, with individuals whose ancestors came from northern Europe surpassing those from southern or eastern Europe. In an article quoted by Dewsbury, Yerkes wrote The strongest challenge, however, came from psychologists who embraced the views of Franz Boas, the leading American anthropologist of the time. Boas argued that many racial and ethnic characteristics were passed down from generation to generation not by heredity, but by culture, through shared values, language, and childrearing customs. One of the first researchers to apply this culture concept to group differences in...

Psychometric Approach

In the psychometric view, adolescence is a period of cognitive stability. Intelligence quotient (IQ) scores show little change during adolescence. Although IQ scores often fluctuate during early childhood, scores generally stabilize about age eight. It is common to find temporary periods of instability in IQ scores after age eight, such as at the onset of puberty or during other stressful times, but dramatic and long-term score changes are rare. According to this perspective, adolescence does not bring significant changes in cognitive skills. Theory and research on cognitive skills began with the development of modern intelligence tests, such as Alfred Binet's 1916 test however, the intelligence-testing, or psychometric, approach has contributed little to an understanding of adolescent cognitive skills. Intelligence tests are best suited to the study of individual differences, or how people compare to others of their age. It is difficult to use intelligence testing to compare and...

The stage is set for greatness

Unfortunately, the tests Binet and Henri devised were a flop. In one influential study, Stella Sharp, a graduate student at Cornell University, gave the tests to seven of her fellow psychology students. She found little evidence of a meaningful pattern in the scores. There was also a troubling lack of relationship among the scores for subtests that were supposed to measure the same ability. Binet himself found similarly disappointing results. In 1904, after eight years of effort, Binet admitted defeat. Today, the goal of developing a quick yet complete test of psychological functioning remains elusive. Yet Binet's time had not been wasted. It had prepared him well for his next challenge devising an intelligence test.

Galton and hereditary intelligence

The first person to try to develop a scientific intelligence test was Francis Galton. This British scientist, a half-cousin of English naturalist Charles Darwin, was a polymath, a person who is knowledgeable in many scientific areas. His interests included studying weather, fingerprints, and the peoples of Africa. Galton argued that plants and animals varied in systematic ways, and he devised new statistical methods for studying heredity. When it came to people, Galton proposed a controversial idea the planned selection of superior parents as a means of improving the human race. To this end, he coined the term eugenics for the theoretical science of human breeding. In 1884, Galton set up a laboratory at the South Kensington Museum in London to measure individual differences in mental ability. For a small fee, people could be tested there. Today, Galton's choice of tests seems amusingly misguided. For one test, he used a special whistle to measure the highest pitch people could hear....

Identification of Giftedness

Different percentages of the general population have been identified as gifted, depending on the definition of giftedness. Terman's use of IQ scores of 140 or above identified 1 percent of scorers as gifted. The current common indicator of intellectual giftedness is a score of 130 or above on a standardized, individually administered intelligence test, which is achieved by the top 2.5 percent of scorers. By the broader Marland definition, some form of which has been enacted through legislation by most states that have mandated gifted education programs, a minimum of 3 to 5 percent of school children are estimated to be gifted. Other definitions would identify as many as 10 to 15 percent of schoolchildren as gifted, or as many as 15 to 25 percent in a talent pool. Gifted and talented students receiving services in schools in the United States constitute about 6 percent of all children who are enrolled.

Neurodevelopmental Disabilities

Early studies focused primarily on cognitive impairment, as measured by intelligence quotient (IQ) and by the detection of motor abnormalities on standardized neurological examinations. A landmark study, the Collaborative Perinatal Project of the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke, monitored 35,000 children born before neonatal intensive care (i.e., in the late 1950s and early 1960s) for 7 years. Although only 177 children born at less than 34 weeks gestation survived, the study documented the increased risk of cognitive and motor impairment as a function of decreasing gestational age (Hack et al., 1993 McCormick et al., 1980). It highlighted the need for neurodevelopmental follow-up of populations born preterm, especially as the emergence of neonatal intensive care and high-risk obstetric care dramatically reduced gestational age-specific mortality rates but not preterm birth rates (see Chapters 1, 2, and 10). The history of neonatal intensive...

Evolution of Questionnaires

As mentioned above, one of the first attempts by experimental psychologists to study attitudes and behaviors by means of the interview was that of the Kinsey group in the 1930's. At about that same time, Louis Thurstone, an experimental social psychologist, formalized and popularized the first questionnaire methodology for attitude measurement. Thurstone devised a set of questionnaires, or scales, that have been widely used for decades. He is considered by many to be the father of attitude scaling. Soon thereafter, Rensis Likert made breakthroughs in questionnaire usage with the development of what are known as Likert scales. A Likert scale provides a series of statements to which subjects can indicate degrees of agreement or disagreement. Using the Likert technique, the respondent answers by selecting from predetermined categories ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree. It is fairly standard to use five categories (strongly agree, agree, uncertain, disagree, strongly...

Intelligence and Guidance

Another common use of an intelligence test is to help an examinee determine specific areas of ability or aptitude which might be useful in selecting a career route. As reported in Aiken, a college senior was given the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (O-LSAT, Advanced Form R) just before her twenty-second birthday. She planned to enroll in a program in a graduate business school and work toward an M.B.A. degree. The O-LSAT is designed to gauge general mental ability, and it includes classification, analogy, and omnibus (a variety of items to measure different aspects of mental functioning) elements. The omnibus includes verbal comprehension, quantitative reasoning, and the ability to follow directions. A particularly important application of intelligence assessment is the identification and guidance of a child with advanced intellectual abilities. In a case reported in Jerome M. Sattler's Assessment of Children (1988), a three-year-old boy was tested repeatedly from that age until his...

Tests and Measures of Individual Differences

Achievement tests, which differ from aptitude tests, measure the effects of specific instruction or training. Some of the most respected tests are the California Achievement Tests, the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills, the Metropolitan Achievement Test, and the Stanford Achievement Test. Their significance lies in reporting what the individual can do at the time oftest administration. Aptitude instruments, on the other hand, make recommendations about future skills. Intelligence tests speak their own language it is unfortunate, though, that so much importance is placed upon the results they yield. One should always remember that the scores identified in the Stanford-Binet test and in the various Wechsler intelligence scales are only part of a big picture about any given human being and should be evaluated accordingly.

The psychologist at home

When Binet tried reaction-time tests with his daughters and their young friends, he found that their average reaction times were indeed longer than those of adults. However, the children's individual reaction times varied widely. Sometimes, the children reacted just as quickly as adults, but other times, they were much slower. Binet concluded that the real difference between children and adults was not in the speed with which they could react, but in their ability to pay attention to the task. When the children's attention wandered, as it often did, their reaction times suffered. These observations led Binet to doubt that simple physiological tests could ever be useful for sorting out the differences between immature and mature minds. Instead, it seemed that more complex tests, such as those requiring sustained attention, would be needed. This realization probably played a role in shaping the kinds of tasks Binet chose for his intelligence test years later.

Counseling Gifted Learners

Beginning in the 1920's, Leta Hollingworth at Columbia University investigated characteristics of children who scored over 180 on the Stanford-Binet test. Her study of twelve children (eight boys and four girls) suggested that despite their overall adjustment, children who were highly intellectually gifted tended to encounter three challenges not encountered by most other children. The first was a failure to develop work habits at school because of a curriculum paced for much less capable learners. The second was difficulty in finding satisfying companionship because of their advanced interests and abilities in relation to their age-mates. The third was vulnerability to frustration and depression because of a capacity to understand information on an adult level without sufficient experience to know how to respond to it.

The Stanford Binet after Terman

Terman died in 1956, but his legacy lives on. The fourth edition of the Stanford-Binet was introduced in 1972, 16 years after Terman's death. This version contained major changes. Previous versions of the Stanford-Binet had included age scales, in which test items were grouped together by the age at which most individuals could pass them. The fourth edition, in contrast, introduced a point scale, in which all the test items of a particular type were grouped together. The test was then evaluated in terms of how many items of each type were answered correctly, rather than in terms of an age level. By the 1970s, this was a very common test structure. It was also the type of structure used for the Wechsler Intelligence Scales, which had by then eclipsed the Stanford-Binet as the most widely used intelligence tests. Previous editions of the Stanford-Binet had yielded an overall IQ score, considered to be a measure of general intelligence. The fourth edition,

Further readings

Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales Fifth Edition. Riverside Publishing cited March 26, 2004 . http products clinical sbis home.html. Sternberg, Robert J. How Intelligent Is Intelligence Testing Scientific American Presents Exploring Intelligence 9 (1998) 12-17.

Verbal tests

Although means for measuring mental ability date as far back as 2000 b.c.e., when the ancient Chinese administered oral tests to determine a candidate's fitness for carrying out the tasks of civil administration, the modern intelligence test has its origins in the nineteenth century, when Jean- tienne-Dominique Esquirol drew a clear distinction between mentally deranged people ( lunatics ) and mentally retarded people ( idiots ). Esquirol believed that it was necessary to devise a means of gauging normal intelligence so that deviations from an agreed-upon norm could be ascertained, and he pointed out that intellectual ability exists on a continuum extending from idiocy to genius. His work coincided with studies in Europe and the United States that were designed to develop a concept of intelligence and to fashion a means of testing this capacity. Work done by Sir Francis Galton in the United Kingdom on hereditary genius, by James McKeen Cattell in the United States on individual...

World War I

When the United States entered the war, Yerkes was 40 years old. He was eager both to serve his country and to advance his career. Beyond that, however, he also wanted to show the nation just how valuable the young science of psychology could be. As APA president, he convinced the association's council to form 12 committees that would explore possible military applications for psychology. Yerkes named himself head of the committee that was charged with studying possible applications of intelligence testing. To form his committee, Yerkes called on all the top U.S. intelligence testers of the day. They included Henry Goddard, who had introduced the Binet-Simon scale to the United States, and Lewis Terman, who had just developed an Americanized version of the scale called the Stanford-Binet. From the outset, Yerkes had big ambitions. He aimed to greatly expand intelligence test methods within a very short period of time. The tests were promptly revised and renamed Army Alpha, for...

Main points

How should intelligence test results be used For Binet, there were at least two reasons why intelligence test results should not be considered exact measurements of mental ability. One, the test itself was imperfect, containing sources of error and unreliability. Two, he believed intelligence could change over time. The latter view set Binet apart from some of the psychologists who expanded upon his test in the decades after his death. It also led Binet to recommend frequent retesting.

Cognitive Impairment

Intelligence is not one skill but a composite of multiple cognitive processes, including visual and auditory memory, abstract reasoning, complex language processing, understanding of syntax, visual perception, visual motor integration, and visual spatial processing. A variety of standardized intelligence tests are available for use with children at each age level. Scores across a variety of cognitive tasks are summed to form an IQ or, for younger children, a developmental quotient (DQ) (Lichtenberger, 2005). Cognitive assessments of very young infants are limited in their predictive ability because of their reliance on assessment of visual-motor and perceptual abilities. As children mature, more verbal and abstract cognitive processes can be evaluated, and scores more accurately reflects their abilities. Cognitive tests are standardized for diverse large populations, with an IQ score of 100 considered the population mean. Mental retardation is a disability that originates in childhood...

Robert Sternberg

Today, Robert Sternberg is one of the world's leading authorities on intelligence. His relationship with intelligence tests got off to an unpromising start, however. Born in 1949 in New Jersey, Sternberg struggled with IQ tests as a youngster. As he later recalled in his 1996 book Successful Intelligence, I was incredibly test-anxious. Just the sight of the school psychologist coming into the classroom to give a group IQ test sent me into a wild panic attack. standard IQ tests. Today, various states and school districts use a wide range of methods for identifying gifted students. Many use standardized tests. Along with intelligence tests, however, assessment for gifted programs may involve tests for creative thinking, artistic ability, leadership, or motivation. In addition, screening might involve non-test measures, such as teacher checklists, teacher or parent recommendations, or the student's work in a portfolio. Another common use for group tests is to help predict which high...


Modern studies of giftedness have their origin in the work of Lewis Terman at Stanford University, who in the 1920's used intelligence test scores to identify intellectually gifted children. His minimal standard for giftedness was an intelligence quotient (IQ) of 140 on the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test, a number at or above which only 1 percent of children are expected to score. (The average IQ score is 100.) Terman and his associates identified more than fifteen hundred children in California as gifted, and follow-up studies on the Terman gifted group were conducted throughout these children's later lives. Although individuals in the gifted group tended to achieve highly in school and in their careers, they were not greatly different from average scorers in other ways. Terman's research dispelled the myths that high scorers on IQ tests were, as a group, socially maladjusted or burned out in adulthood. They were high achievers and yet normal in the sense that their social...

Konrad Lorenz

In hindsight, this seems to be a clear sign that test scores were tied to people's knowledge of the English language and familiarity with American culture. In other words, it was strong evidence for an environmental influence on intelligence test scores. Yerkes himself acknowledged the possibility when he wrote, At best we can but leave for future decision the question as to whether the differences in scores represent a real difference in intelligence or an artifact of the method of examination.

David Wechsler

Alfred Binet may have invented intelligence testing, but the distinction of developing the most popular IQ test used today goes to David Wechsler. Wechsler was born in Romania in 1896. He moved with his family to the United States when he was six years old. By the time the United States entered World War I, Wechsler was a young graduate student studying psychology at Columbia University. At the start of the war, Wechsler served for a time as a volunteer scorer of the Army Alpha test. Once he became a junior officer, he was assigned to give the Stanford-Binet test to recruits who had been referred for extra testing. This experience gave Wechsler a firsthand glimpse of the strengths and weaknesses of the leading intelligence tests of the day. In particular, he became aware that the Stanford-Binet test did not always work well for assessing intelligence in adults. After the war, Wechsler completed his Ph.D. and continued to conduct intelligence testing in the course of his work as a...

Twin studies

In 1969, educational psychologist Arthur Jensen published an article in the Harvard Educational Review titled How Much Can We Boost I.Q. and Scholastic Achievement He attempted to explain multiple findings that whites, on the average, outperform blacks by about 15 points on intelligence quotient (IQ) tests. His major conclusion was that racial differences in intelligence are primarily attributable to heredity and that whites, as a racial group, are born with abilities superior to those of blacks. Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray's The Bell Curve (1994) reopened the issue of heredity versus environment in the attainment of intelligence. The authors argue that Caucasians are inherently superior to African Americans in IQ levels, presenting a mass of statistical evidence to support their position. Critics of The Bell Curve attack it on a number of fronts. There is a failure to separate hereditary from genetic variables. The definition of race proves a difficult one. The IQ tests...

Fetal Maturation

There is a physiological cost to fetal development for accelerated fetal maturation in the face of adverse intrauterine circumstances. Scherjon et al. (2000) found a lower mean intelligence quotient score (87 versus 90) and a higher incidence of cognitive impairment (54 versus 20 percent) in 5-year-old children who had had Doppler flow evidence of fetal brain sparing and accelerated neuromaturation than in those without accelerated neuromaturation. These data from a longitudinal study of adaptive mechanisms in infants who encountered IUGR is a reminder that survival under adverse intrauterine circumstances has many costs over the life span.

Scientific Value

Traditionally, intelligence quotient (IQ) tests measure two kinds of intelligence one related to verbal skills and one related to spatial skills. Newer theories and tests attempt to address the possibility that there are dozens of different kinds of intelligence. The newer tests may help to identify special talents that may otherwise go unrecognized, undeveloped, and unrewarded in people who are not especially good at tasks measured by the more traditional tests. The new theories of multiple intelligences are also being used in the field of artificial intelligence to develop computer and robotic systems which utilize less sequential processing and more parallel systems or netlike processing, more like the human brain.

Mental Retardation

Mental retardation occurs about three times per thousand births and usually indicates an intelligence quotient (IQ) of less than 70. Variations in severity may allow some individuals to be virtually independent and capable of retaining simple jobs, whereas more severely affected persons may require lifetime institutional care. The causes of mental retardation are numerous, with many having a clear-cut underlying genetic basis, others implicating environmental factors, and still others with no known cause.

Role of Analogies

Intelligence has also been studied by examining the way in which students who have been identified as gifted (based on high intelligence test scores) solve problems. It was found that highly intelligent people are better able to separate relevant and irrelevant information.

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