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Necessity Of Securing Attention And Effort

The child's intelligence is to be judged by his success in the performance of
certain tasks. These tasks may appear to the examiner to be very easy, indeed;
but we must bear in mind that they are often anything but easy for the child.
Real effort and attention are necessary for his success, and occasionally
even his best efforts fall short of the desired result. If the tests are
to display the child's real intellectual ability it will be necessary,
therefore, to avoid as nearly as possible every disturbing factor which
would divide his attention or in any other way injure the quality of
his responses. To insure this it will be necessary to consider somewhat
in detail a number of factors which influence effort, such as degree of
quiet, the nature of surroundings, presence or absence of others, means
of gaining the child's confidence, the avoidance of embarrassment,
fatigue, etc.

One should not expect, however, to secure an absolutely equal degree of
attention from all subjects. The power to give sustained attention to a
difficult task is characteristically weak in dull and feeble-minded
children. What we should labor to secure is the maximum attention of
which the child is capable, and if this is unsatisfactory without
external cause, we are to regard the fact as symptomatic of inferior
mental ability, not as an extenuating factor or an excuse for lack of
success in the tests.

Attention, of course, cannot be normal if any acute physical or mental
disturbance is present. Toothache, headache, earache, nausea, fever,
cold, etc., all render the test inadvisable. The same is true of mental
anxiety or fear, as in the case of the child who has just been arrested
and brought before the court.

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