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Influence Of Social And Educational Advantages








The criticism has often been made that the responses to many of the tests are so
much subject to the influence of school and home environment as seriously to invalidate
the scale as a whole. Some of the tests most often named in this
connection are the following: Giving age and sex; naming common objects,
colors, and coins; giving the value of stamps; giving date; naming the
months of the year and the days of the week; distinguishing forenoon and
afternoon; counting; making change; reading for memories; naming sixty
words; giving definitions; finding rhymes; and constructing a sentence
containing three given words.

It has in fact been found wherever comparisons have been made that
children of superior social status yield a higher average mental age
than children of the laboring classes. The results of Decroly and Degand
and of Meumann, Stern, and Binet himself may be referred to in this
connection. In the case of the Stanford investigation, also, it was
found that when the unselected school children were grouped in three
classes according to social status (superior, average, and inferior),
the average I Q for the superior social group was 107, and that of the
inferior social group 93. This is equivalent to a difference of one year
in mental age with 7-year-olds, and to a difference of two years with
14-year-olds.

However, the common opinion that the child from a cultured home does
better in tests solely by reason of his superior home advantages is an
entirely gratuitous assumption. Practically all of the investigations
which have been made of the influence of nature and nurture on mental
performance agree in attributing far more to original endowment than to
environments. Common observation would itself suggest that the social
class to which the family belongs depends less on chance than on the
parents' native qualities of intellect and character.

The results of five separate and distinct lines of inquiry based on the
Stanford data agree in supporting the conclusion that the children of
successful and cultured parents test higher than children from wretched
and ignorant homes for the simple reason that their heredity is better.
The results of this investigation are set forth in full elsewhere.

It would, of course, be going too far to deny all possibility of
environmental conditions affecting the result of an intelligence test.
Certainly no one would expect that a child reared in a cage and denied
all intercourse with other human beings could by any system of mental
measurement test up to the level of normal children. There is, however,
no reason to believe that _ordinary_ differences in social environment
(apart from heredity), differences such as those obtaining among
unselected children attending approximately the same general type of
school in a civilized community, affects to any great extent the
validity of the scale.

A crucial experiment would be to take a large number of very young
children of the lower classes and, after placing them in the most
favorable environment obtainable, to compare their later mental
development with that of children born into the best homes. No extensive
study of this kind has been made, but the writer has tested twenty
orphanage children who, for the most part, had come from very inferior
homes. They had been in a well-conducted orphanage for from two to
several years, and had enjoyed during that time the advantages of an
excellent village school. Nevertheless, all but three tested below
average, ranging from 75 to 90 I Q.

The impotence of school instruction to neutralize individual differences
in native endowment will be evident to any one who follows the school
career of backward children. The children who are seriously retarded in
school are not normal, and cannot be made normal by any refinement of
educational method. As a rule, the longer the inferior child attends
school, the more evident his inferiority becomes. It would hardly be
reasonable, therefore, to expect that a little incidental instruction in
the home would weigh very heavily against these same native differences
in endowment. Cases like the following show conclusively that it does
not:--

X is the son of unusually intelligent and well-educated parents.
The home is everything one would expect of people of scholarly
pursuits and cultivated tastes. But X has always been
irresponsible, troublesome, childish, and queer. He learned to
walk at 2 years, to talk at 3, and has always been delicate and
nervous. When brought for examination he was 8 years old. He had
twice attempted school work, but could accomplish nothing and
was withdrawn. His play-life was not normal, and other children,
younger than himself, abused and tormented him. The Binet tests
gave an I Q of approximately 75; that is, the retardation
amounted to about two years. The child was examined again three
years later. At that time, after attending school two years, he
had recently completed the first grade. This time the I Q was
73. Strange to say, the mother is encouraged and hopeful because
she sees that her boy is learning to read. She does not seem to
realize that at his age he ought to be within three years of
entering high school.

The forty-minute test had told more about the mental ability of
this boy than the intelligent mother had been able to learn in
eleven years of daily and hourly observation. For X is
feeble-minded; he will never complete the grammar school; he
will never be an efficient worker or a responsible citizen.

Let us change the picture. Z is a bright-eyed, dark-skinned girl
of 9 years. She is dark-skinned because her father is a mixture
of Indian and Spanish. The mother is of Irish descent. With her
strangely mated parents and two brothers she lives in a dirty,
cramped, and poorly furnished house in the country. The parents
are illiterate, and the brothers are retarded and dull, though
not feeble-minded.

It is Z's turn to be tested. I inquire the name. It is familiar,
for I have already tested the two stupid brothers. I also know
her ignorant parents and the miserable cabin in which she lives.
The examination begins with the 8-year tests. The responses are
quick and accurate. We proceed to the 9-year group. There is no
failure, and there is but one minor error. Successes and
failures alternate for a while until the latter prevail. Z has
tested at 11 years. In spite of her wretched home, she is
mentally advanced nearly 25 per cent. By the vocabulary test she
is credited with a knowledge of nearly 6000 words, or nearly
four times as many as X, the boy of cultured home and scholarly
parents, had learned by the age of 8 years.

Five years have passed. When given the test, Z was in the fourth
grade and, as we have already stated, 9 years of age. As a
result of the test she was transferred to the fifth grade. Later
she skipped again and at the age of 14 is a successful student
in the second year of high school. To assay her intelligence and
determine its quality was a task of forty-five minutes.

The above cases, each of which could be paralleled by many others which
we have found, will serve to illustrate the fact that exceptionally
superior endowment is discoverable by the tests, however unfavorable the
home from which it comes, and that inferior endowment cannot be
normalized by all the advantages of the most cultured home. Quoting
again from Stern, "The tests actually reach and discover the general
developmental conditions of intelligence, and not mere fragments of
knowledge and attainments acquired by chance."





Next: Necessity Of Securing Attention And Effort

Previous: Reliability Of Repeated Tests



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