Alfred Binet in The Psychologist

Alfred BinetThe latest issue of the British Psychological Society’s flagship journal, The Psychologist, has just come out and it is freely available on-line in its entirety.

Of particular interest to historians will be Richard Howard’s piece on the French inventor of the intelligence test (among other things), Alfred Binet. Dr. Howard, who is a Reader in Personality Disorders in the Psychiatry Division at Nottingham University, emphasizes the differences between the value Binet saw in his own test and the uses to which it was put by Lewis Terman and other in the US. He also covers Binet’s wide range of interests prior to the intelligence test, from his work on hysteria and suggestibility in Jean-Martin Charcot’s clinic, to his studies of the unreliability of eyewitnesses in law courts, to his doctorate in insect physiology.

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About Christopher Green

Professor of Psychology at York University (Toronto). Former editor of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. Creator of the "Classics in the History of Psychology" website and of the "This Week in the History of Psychology" podcast series.

6 thoughts on “Alfred Binet in The Psychologist

  1. Considering Binet’s own views on intelligence testing in children, you have to wonder how things might have developed if he had managed to live longer. As it was, Binet was a powerful influence on Jean Piaget (who trained under Binet before his death).

  2. This is a common misunderstanding: Piaget did indeed get a job at the Binet lab. His task was to standardize Cyril Burt’s intelligence tests on French children. But he did not work with Binet.

    Binet died in 1911. Piaget was only 15 at the time.

    Instead, Piaget studied under Pierre Janet. He was in Paris from 1919 to 1921.

    Here’s a reference that supports my claim:
    Amann-Gainotti, M. & Ducret, J.-J. (1992). Jean Piaget, élève de Pierre Janet : l’influence de la psychologie des conduites et les rapports avec la psychanalyse. Information psychiatrique, 68(6), 598-606.

  3. I stand corrected although Binet seemed to have a strong influence on Piaget’s later work considering how their views on cognitive processes in children dovetailed.

  4. I am aware of only one commentary on Binet by Piaget.

    Piaget, J. (1975). L’intelligence, selon Alfred Binet. Bulletin de la Société Alfred Binet et Théodore Simon, 75(544), 106-119.

    This has not been translated.

  5. I also think the trope of well-intentioned, complex Binet versus his cruder, more mean-spirited American counterparts (central to the narrative of Gould’s Mismeasure of Man) is somewhat exaggerated. Recent work, such as John Carson’s Measure of Merit, have shown Binet’s role in the French administrative state and its sorting of people.

  6. This item may be of interest:

    Wesley, Frank. Developmental cognition before Piaget: Alfred Binet’s pioneering experiments. Developmental Review. Vol 9(1) Mar 1989, 58-63.

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