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The Influence Of Coaching

It might be supposed that after the intelligence scale had been used with a few
pupils in a given school all of their fellows would soon be apprised of the nature of
the tests, and so learn the correct responses. Experience shows, however, that there is
little likelihood of such influence except in the case of a small
minority of the tests. Experiments in the psychology of testimony have
demonstrated that children's ability to report upon a complex set of
experiences is astonishingly weak. In testing with the Stanford revision
a child is ordinarily given from twenty-four to thirty different tests,
many of which are made up of three or more items. Of the total forty to
fifty items the child is ordinarily able to report but few, and these
not always correctly.

Such tests as memory for sentences and digits, drawing the square and
diamond, reproducing the designs from memory, comparing weights and
lines, describing and interpreting pictures, aesthetic comparison,
vocabulary, dissected sentences, fables, reading for memories, finding
differences and similarities, arithmetical reasoning, and the form-board
test, are hardly subject to report at all. While almost any of the other
tests might, theoretically, be communicated, there is little danger that
many of them will be. It is assumed, of course, that the examiner will
take proper precautions to prevent any of his blanks or other materials
from falling into the hands of those who are to be examined.

The following tests are the ones most subject to the influence of
coaching: Ball and field, giving date, naming sixty words, finding
rhymes, changing hands of clock, comprehension of physical relations,
"induction test," and "ingenuity test."

In several instances we have interviewed children an hour or two after
they had taken the examination, in order to find out how many of the
tests they could recall. A boy of 4 years, after repeated questioning,
could only say: "He showed me some pictures. He had a knife and a penny.
He told me to shut the door." A girl of 3 years could recall nothing
whatever that was intelligible.

An 8-year-old boy said: "He made me tie a knot. He asked me about a ship
and an auto. He wanted me to count backwards. He made me say over some
things, numbers and things."

A boy of 12 years said: "He told me to say all the words I could think
of. He said some foolish things and asked what was foolish [he could not
repeat a single absurdity]. I had to put some blocks together. I had to
do some problems in arithmetic [he could not repeat a single problem].
He read some fables to me. [Asked about the fables he was able to recall
only part of one, that of the fox and the crow.] He showed me the
picture of a field and wanted to know how to find a ball."

It is evident from the above samples of report that the danger of
coaching increases considerably with the age of the children concerned.
With young subjects the danger is hardly present at all; with children
of the upper-grammar grades, in the high school, and most of all in
prisons and reformatories, it must be taken into account. Alternative
tests may sometimes be used to advantage when there is evidence of
coaching on any of the regular tests. It would be desirable to have two
or three additional scales which could be used interchangeably with the

Next: Reliability Of Repeated Tests

Previous: Influence Of The Subject's Attitude

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