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Some Avowed Limitations Of The Binet Tests

The Binet tests have often been criticized for their unfitness to perform certain
services which in reality they were never meant to render. This is unfair. We cannot make
a just evaluation of the scale without bearing in mind its avowed limitations.

For example, the scale does not pretend to measure the entire mentality
of the subject, but only _general intelligence_. There is no pretense of
testing the emotions or the will beyond the extent to which these
naturally display themselves in the tests of intelligence. The scale was
not designed as a tool for the analysis of those emotional or volitional
aberrations which are concerned in such mental disorders as hysteria,
insanity, etc. These conditions do not present a progressive reduction
of intelligence to the infantile level, and in most of them other
factors besides intelligence play an important role. Moreover, even in
the normal individual the fruitfulness of intelligence, the direction in
which it shall be applied, and its methods of work are to a certain
extent determined by the extraneous factors of emotion and volition.

It should, nevertheless, be pointed out that defects of intelligence, in
a large majority of cases, also involve disturbances of the emotional
and volitional functions. We do not expect to find perfectly normal
emotions or will power of average strength coupled with marked
intellectual deficiency, and as a matter of fact such a combination is
rare indeed. In the course of an examination with the Binet tests, the
experienced clinical psychologist is able to gain considerable insight
into the subject's emotional and volitional equipment, even though the
method was designed primarily for another purpose.

A second misunderstanding can be avoided by remembering that the Binet
scale does not pretend to bring to light the idiosyncrasies of special
talent, but only to measure the general level of intelligence. It cannot
be used for the discovery of exceptional ability in drawing, painting,
music, mathematics, oratory, salesmanship, etc., because no effort is
made to explore the processes underlying these abilities. It can,
therefore, never serve as a _detailed chart_ for the vocational guidance
of children, telling us which will succeed in business, which in art,
which in medicine, etc. It is not a new kind of phrenology. At the same
time, as we have already pointed out, _it is capable of bounding roughly
the vocational territory in which an individual's intelligence will
probably permit success, nothing else preventing_.

In the third place, it must not be supposed that the scale can be used
as a complete pedagogical guide. Although intelligence tests furnish
data of the greatest significance for pedagogical procedure, they do not
suggest the appropriate educational methods in detail. These will
have to be worked out in a practical way for the various grades of
intelligence, and at great cost of labor and patience.

Finally, in arriving at an estimate of a subject's grade of intelligence
and his susceptibility to training, it would be a mistake to ignore the
data obtainable from other sources. No competent psychologist, however
ardent a supporter of the Binet method he might be, would recommend such
a policy. Those who accept the method as all-sufficient are as much in
error as those who consider it as no more important than any one of a
dozen other approaches. Standardized tests have already become and will
remain by far the most reliable single method for grading intelligence,
but the results they furnish will always need to be interpreted in the
light of supplementary information regarding the subject's personal
history, including medical record, accidents, play habits, industrial
efficiency, social and moral traits, school success, home environment,
etc. Without question, however, the improved Binet tests will contribute
more than all other data combined to the end of enabling us to forecast
a child's possibilities of future improvement, and this is the
information which will aid most in the proper direction of his

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Previous: Guiding Principles In Choice And Arrangement Of Tests

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