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Finding Rhymes

PROCEDURE. Say to the child: "_You know what a rhyme is, of course. A
rhyme is a word that sounds like another word. Two words rhyme if they
end in the same sound. Understand?_" Whether the child says he
understands or not, we proceed to illustrate what a rhyme is, as
follows: "_Take the two words 'hat' and 'cat.' They sound alike and so
they make a rhyme. 'Hat,' 'rat,' 'cat,' 'bat' all rhyme with one

That is, we first explain what a rhyme is and then we give an
illustration. A large majority of American children who have reached the
age of 9 years understand perfectly what a rhyme is, without any
illustration. A few, however, think they understand, but do not; and in
order to insure that all are given equal advantage it is necessary never
to omit the illustration.

After the illustration say: "_Now, I am going to give you a word and you
will have one minute to find as many words as you can that rhyme with
it. The word is 'day.' Name all the words you can think of that rhyme
with 'day.'_"

If the child fails with the first word, before giving the second we
repeat the explanation and give sample rhymes for _day_; otherwise we
proceed without further explanation to _mill_ and _spring_, saying,
"_Now, you have another minute to name all the words you can think of
that rhyme with 'mill,'_" etc. Apart from the mention of "one minute"
say nothing to suggest hurrying, as this tends to throw some children
into mental confusion.

SCORING. Passed if in _two out of the three_ parts of the experiment the
child finds _three words_ which rhyme with the word given, the time
limit for each series being _one minute_. Note that in each case there
must be three words in addition to the word given. These must be real
words, not meaningless syllables or made-up words. However, we should be
liberal enough to accept such words as _ding_ (from "ding-dong ") for
_spring_, _Jill_ (see "Jack and Jill") for _mill_, _Fay_ (girl's name)
for _day_, etc.

REMARKS. At first thought it would seem that the demands made by this
test upon intelligence could not be very great. Sound associations
between words may be contrasted unfavorably with associations like those
of cause and effect, part to whole, whole to part, opposites, etc. But
when we pass from _a-priori_ considerations to an examination of the
actual data, we find that the giving of rhymes is closely correlated
with general intelligence.

The 9-year-olds who test at or above 10 years nearly always do well in
finding rhymes, while 9-year-olds who test as low as 8 years seldom
pass. When a test thus shows high correlation with the scale as a whole,
we must either accept the test as valid or reject the scale altogether.
While the feeble-minded do not do as well in this test as normal
children of corresponding mental age, the percentage successes for them
rises rapidly between mental age 8 and mental age 10 or 11.

Closer psychological analysis of the processes involved will show why
this is true. To find rhymes for a given word means that one must hunt
out verbal associations under the direction of a guiding idea. Every
word has innumerable associations and many of these tend, in greater or
less degree, to be aroused when the stimulus word is given. In order to
succeed with the test, however, it is necessary to inhibit all
associations which are not relevant to the desired end. The directing
idea must be held so firmly in mind that it will really direct the
thought associations. Besides acting to inhibit the irrelevant, it must
create a sort of magnetic stress (to borrow a figure from physics) which
will give dominance to those associative tendencies pointing in the
right direction. Even the feeble-minded child of imbecile grade has in
his vocabulary a great many words which rhyme with _day_, _mill_, and
_spring_. He fails on the test because his verbal associations cannot be
subjugated to the influence of a directing idea. The end to be attained
does not dominate consciousness sufficiently to create more than a faint
stress. Instead of a single magnetic pole there is a conflict of forces.
The result is either chaos or partial success. _Mill_ may suggest
_hill_, and then perhaps the directing idea becomes suddenly inoperative
and the child gives _mountain_, _valley_, or some other irrelevant
association. The lack of associations, however, is a more frequent cause
of failure than inability to inhibit the irrelevant.

If any one supposes that finding rhymes does not draw upon the higher
mental powers, let him try the experiment upon himself in various stages
of mental efficiency, say at 9 A.M., when mentally refreshed by a good
night of sleep and again when fatigued and sleepy. Poets questioned by
Galton on this point all testified to the greater difficulty of finding
rhymes when mentally fatigued. In this and in many other respects the
mental activities of the fatigued or sleepy individual approach the type
of mentation which is normal to the feeble-minded.

It is important to note that adults make a less favorable showing
in this test than normal children of corresponding mental age,
Mr. Knollin's "hoboes" of 12-year intelligence doing hardly as well as
school children of 10-year intelligence. Those who are habitually
employed in school exercises probably acquire an adeptness in verbal
associations which is later gradually lost in the preoccupations of real

There has been more disagreement as to the proper location of this test
than of any other test of the Binet scale. Binet placed it in year XII
of the 1908 scale, but shifted it to year XV in 1911. Kuhlmann retains
it in year XII, while Goddard drops it down to year XI. However, when we
examine the actual statistics for normal children we do not find very
marked disagreement, and such disagreement as is present can be largely
accounted for by variations in procedure and by differing conclusions
drawn from identical data. In the first place, Binet gave but one trial.
This, of course, makes the test much harder than when three trials are
given and only two successes are required. To make one trial equal in
difficulty to three trials we should perhaps need to demand only two
rhymes, instead of three, in the one trial. In the second place, the
word used by Binet (_obeissance_) is much harder than one-syllable words
like _day_, _mill_, and _spring_. Finally, the wide shift of the test
from year XII to year XV was not justified by the statistics of Binet
himself, and the figures of Kuhlmann and Goddard are really in
exceptionally close agreement with our own, notwithstanding the fact
that Goddard required three successes instead of two. In four series of
tests, considered together, we have found 62 per cent passing at
year IX, 81 per cent at year X, 83 per cent at year XI, and 94 per cent
at year XII.

Next: Alternative Test 1: Naming The Months

Previous: Using Three Words In A Sentence

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