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# Average Adult Alternative Test 2: Comprehension Of Physical Relations

(a) _Problem regarding the path of a cannon ball_

PROCEDURE. Draw on a piece of paper a horizontal line six or eight
inches long. Above it, an inch or two, draw a short horizontal line
about an inch long and parallel to the first. Tell the subject that the
long line represents the perfectly level ground of a field, and that the
short line represents a cannon. Explain that the cannon is "_pointed
horizontally (on a level) and is fired across this perfectly level
field_." After it is clear that these conditions of the problem are
comprehended, we add: "_Now, suppose that this cannon is fired off and
that the ball comes to the ground at this point here_ (pointing to the
farther end of the line which represents the field). _Take this pencil
and draw a line which will show what path the cannon ball will take from
the time it leaves the mouth of the cannon till it strikes the ground._"

SCORING. There are four types of response: (1) A straight diagonal line
is drawn from the cannon's mouth to the point where the ball strikes.
(2) A straight line is drawn from the cannon's mouth running
horizontally until almost directly over the goal, at which point the
line drops almost or quite vertically. (3) The path from the cannon's
mouth first rises considerably from the horizontal, at an angle perhaps
of between ten to forty-five degrees, and finally describes a gradual
curve downward to the goal. (4) The line begins almost on a level and
drops more rapidly toward the end of its course.

Only the last is satisfactory. Of course, nothing like a mathematically
accurate solution of the problem is expected. It is sufficient if the
response belongs to the fourth type above instead of being absurd, as
the other types described are. Any one who has ever thrown stones should
have the data for such an approximate solution. Not a day of schooling
is necessary.

(b) _Problem as to the weight of a fish in water_

PROCEDURE. Say to the subject: "_You know, of course, that water holds
up a fish that is placed in it. Well, here is a problem. Suppose we have
a bucket which is partly full of water. We place the bucket on the
scales and find that with the water in it it weighs exactly 45 pounds.
Then we put a 5-pound fish into the bucket of water. Now, what will the
whole thing weigh?_"

SCORING. Many subjects even as low as 9- or 10-year intelligence will
answer promptly, "Why, 45 pounds and 5 pounds makes 50 pounds, of
course." But this is not sufficient. We proceed to ask, with serious
demeanor: "_How can this be correct, since the water itself holds up the
fish?_" The young subject who has answered so glibly now laughs
sheepishly and apologizes for his error, saying that he answered without
thinking, etc. This response is scored failure without further
questioning.

"50 pounds," however strongly we urge the argument about the water
holding up the fish. In response to our question, "_How can that be the
case?_" it is sufficient if the subject replies that "The weight is
there just the same; the scales have to hold up the bucket and the
bucket has to hold up the water," or words to that effect. Only some
such response as this is satisfactory. If the subject keeps changing his
answer or says that he _thinks_ the weight would be 50 pounds, but is
not certain, the score is failure.

(c) _Difficulty of hitting a distant mark_

PROCEDURE. Say to the subject: "_You know, do you not, what it means
when they say a gun 'carries 100 yards'? It means that the bullet goes
that far before it drops to amount to anything._" All boys and most
girls more than a dozen years old understand this readily. If the
subject does not understand, we explain again what it means for a gun
"to carry" a given distance. When this part is clear, we proceed as
follows: "_Now, suppose a man is shooting at a mark about the size of a
quart can. His rifle carries perfectly more than 100 yards. With such a
gun is it any harder to hit the mark at 100 yards than it is at
50 yards?_" After the response is given, we ask the subject to explain.

SCORING. Simply to say that it would be easier at 50 yards is not
sufficient, nor can we pass the response which merely states that it is
"easier to aim" at 50 yards. The correct principle must be given, one
which shows the subject has appreciated the fact that a small deviation
from the "bull's-eye" at 50 yards, due to incorrect aim, becomes a
larger deviation at 100 yards. However, the subject is not required to
know that the deviation at 100 yards is exactly twice as great as at
50 yards. A certain amount of questioning is often necessary before we
can decide whether the subject has the correct principle in mind.

SCORING THE ENTIRE TEST. _Two of the three problems_ must be solved in
such a way as to satisfy the requirements above set forth.

REMARKS. These problems were devised by the writer. They yield
interesting results, when properly given, but are not without their
faults. Sometimes a very superior subject fails, while occasionally an
inferior subject unexpectedly succeeds. On the whole, however the test
correlates fairly well with mental age. At the 14-year level less than
50 per cent pass; of "average adults," from 60 to 75 per cent are

The test as here given is little influenced by the formal instruction
given in the grades or the high school. In fact, 80 per cent of our
uneducated business men, as contrasted with 65 per cent of high-school
juniors and seniors, passed the test. Success probably depends in the
main upon previous interest in physical relationships and upon the
ability to understand phenomena of this kind which the subject has had
opportunity to observe.

It would be interesting to standardize a longer series of problems
designed to test a subject's comprehension of common physical
relationships. In the first few months of life a normal child learns
that objects unsupported fall to the ground. Later he learns that fire
burns; that birds fly in the air; that fish do not sink in the water;
that water does not run uphill; that it is easy to lift a leg or arm as
one lies prone in the water; that mud is thrown from a rotating wheel
(and always in the same direction); that a stone which is flying
through the air swiftly is more dangerous than one which is moving
slowly; that it is more dangerous to be run over by a train than by a
buggy; that it is hard to run against a strong wind; that cyclones blow
down trees and houses; that a rapidly moving train creates a stronger
wind than a slower train; that a feather falls through the air with less
speed than a stone; that a falling object gains momentum; that a heavy
moving object is harder to stop than a light object moving at the same
rate; that freezing water bursts pipes; that sounds sometimes give
echoes; that rainbows cannot be approached; that a lamp seems dim by
daylight; that by day the stars are not visible and the moon only barely
visible; that the headlights of an approaching automobile or train are
blinding; that if the room in which we are reading is badly lighted we
must hold the book nearer to the eyes; that running makes the heart beat
faster and increases the rate of breathing; that if we are cold we can
get warm by running; that whirling rapidly makes us dizzy; that heat or
exercise will cause perspiration, etc.

Although the causes of some of these phenomena are not understood even
by intelligent adults without some instruction, the facts themselves are
learned by the normal individual from his own experience. The higher the
mental level and the greater the curiosity, the more observant one is
about such matters and the more one learns. Many items of knowledge such
as we have mentioned could and should be standardized for various mental
levels. In devising tests of this kind we should, of course, have to
look out for the influences of formal instruction.

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