Tag Archives: intelligence testing

Special Issue of HoP: “Mental Testing after 1905: Uses in Different Local Contexts”

The August 2014 issue of History of Psychology is now online. A special issue on “Mental Testing after 1905: Uses in Different Local Contexts” edited by Annette Mülberger (left), the issue includes articles on intelligence testing in the Soviet Union, pedagogical uses of intelligence tests in Spain, psychological testing in Brazil, and more. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“The need for contextual approaches to the history of mental testing,”by Annette Mülberger. The abstract reads,

The effort to locate the origin and follow the historical development of mental tests comes as no surprise, given the success the technique enjoyed throughout the 20th century. It is a controversial, yet also essential, professional tool that characterizes the work of the psychologist in contemporary society. Why write more on this subject? In this introductory article, Mülberger will argue that although we have a great number of publications at our disposal, new contributions are needed to reinterpret this crucial episode in the history of psychology from different angles. Although unable to cover the huge number of publications, she will first comment briefly on some contributions that marked historical research in the second half of the 20th century. In doing so, she will focus on works that aim to explain the origin and historical development of mental testing. Mülberger will thereby leave aside the debate regarding the reliability of some empirical data gathered by certain psychologists and the social consequences of intelligence testing. She will then move on to evaluate the status quo by considering Carson’s (2007) ambitious research and the historiographical idea guiding this monographic issue.

“A psychology for pedagogy: Intelligence testing in USSR in the 1920s,” by Irina Leopoldoff. The abstract reads, Continue reading Special Issue of HoP: “Mental Testing after 1905: Uses in Different Local Contexts”

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Sick? Or Slow? A History of Early Intelligence Testing in Intelligence

In a recently released, open access article in Intelligence Serge Nicolas, Bernard Andrieu, Jean-Claude Croizet, Rasyid B. Sanitioso, and Jeremy Trevelyan Burman discuss the early history of intelligence testing as it developed in France. In “Sick? Or slow? On the Origins of Intelligence as a Psychological Object” Nicolas and colleagues describe how psychologist Alfred Binet (left) fought to establish authority in the realm of children’s educational assessment. Binet challenged psychiatrists, including rival Désiré-Magloire Bourneville (top), for primacy in this field, arguing that children who fell behind in school should be kept within the school rather than removed to “asylums.” For Binet, such children were slow, but not sick. To identify these children, Binet and his collaborators developed the Binet-Simon test, the direct precursor of the extremely successful American Stanford-Binet test. The article’s abstract reads,

This paper examines the first moments of the emergence of “psychometrics” as a discipline, using a history of the Binet–Simon test (precursor to the Stanford–Binet) to engage the question of how intelligence became a “psychological object.” To begin to answer this, we used a previously-unexamined set of French texts to highlight the negotiations and collaborations that led Alfred Binet (1857–1911) to identify “mental testing” as a research area worth pursuing. This included a long-standing rivalry with Désiré-Magloire Bourneville (1840–1909), who argued for decades that psychiatrists ought to be the professional arbiters of which children would be removed from the standard curriculum and referred to special education classes in asylums. In contrast, Binet sought to keep children in schools and conceived of a way for psychologists to do this. Supported by the Société libre de l’étude psychologique de l’enfant [Free society for the psychological study of the child], and by a number of collaborators and friends, he thus undertook to create a “metric” scale of intelligence—and the associated testing apparatus—to legitimize the role of psychologists in a to-that-point psychiatric domain: identifying and treating “the abnormal”. The result was a change in the earlier law requiring all healthy French children to attend school, between the ages of 6 and 13, to recognize instead that otherwise normal children sometimes need special help: they are “slow” (arriéré), but not “sick.” This conceptualization of intelligence was then carried forward, through the test’s influence on Lewis Terman (1877–1956) and Lightner Witmer (1867–1956), to shape virtually all subsequent thinking about intelligence testing and its role in society.

The full article is currently open access and can be downloaded free of charge here.

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