The Binet Tests

Binet, a psychologist and educator, founded the first French psychological laboratory. He was a pioneer in the study of individual differences in abilities and introduced intelligence tests that were quickly accepted and widely used in Europe and the United States. His work stemmed from a commission from the minister of education in Paris, who gave him the task of devising a way to distinguish between idiocy and lunacy, as Esquirol had defined them, and normal intelligence, so that handicapped students could be given special instruction. Binet and Simon used many items that had been developed by earlier examiners; the key advances they made were to rank items in order of difficulty and to register results in terms of age-based cognitive development. Their scale reflected the idea that intelligence was a combination of faculties—-judgment, practical sense, and initiative—and contained measures related to memory, reasoning ability, numerical facility, and object comparison.

Binet and Simon's work demonstrated the feasibility of mental measurement, assessing intelligence for the first time in general terms rather than measuring its component parts. Binet revised the test in 1908, and another revision was published in 1911, the year of his death. Advances in his basic design led to the development of tests that could be used for all children (not only those considered mentally limited) in assessing their "mental quotient," a ratio adapted by Lewis Terman of Stanford University. It was obtained by dividing mental age (as determined through scores on a test) by chronological age. Terman renamed it the intelligence quotient (IQ), and his 1916 version of the Binet-Simon scale became known as the Stanford-Binet test, the most common intelligence test administered in the United States during the twentieth century. It was revised and updated in 1937, 1960, 1972, and 1986, when a point-scale format was introduced for the first time.

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