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Tying A Bow-knot

PROCEDURE. Prepare a shoestring tied in a bow-knot around a stick. The
knot should be an ordinary "double bow," with wings not over three or
four inches long. Make this ready in advance of the experiment and show
the child only the completed knot.

Place the model before the subject with the wings pointing to the right
and left, and say: "_You know what kind of knot this is, don't you? It
is a bow-knot. I want you to take this other piece of string and tie the
same kind of knot around my finger._" At the same time give the child a
piece of shoestring, of the same length as that which is tied around the
stick, and hold out a finger pointed toward the child and in convenient
position for the operation. It is better to have the subject tie the
string around the examiner's finger than around a pencil or other object
because the latter often falls out of the string and is otherwise
awkward to handle.

Some children who assert that they do not know how to tie a bow-knot are
sometimes nevertheless successful when urged to try. It is always
necessary, therefore, to secure an actual trial.

SCORING. The test is passed if a double bow-knot (both ends folded in)
is made _in not more than a minute_. A single bow-knot (only one end
folded in) counts half credit, because children are often accustomed to
use the single bow altogether. The usual plain common knot, which
precedes the bow-knot proper, must not be omitted if the response is to
count as satisfactory, for without this preliminary plain knot a
bow-knot will not hold and is of no value. To be satisfactory the knot
should also be drawn up reasonably close, not left gaping.

REMARKS. This test, which had not before been standardized, was
suggested to the writer by the late Dr. Huey, who in a conversation
once remarked upon the frequent inability of feeble-minded adults to
perform the little motor tasks which are universally learned by normal
persons in childhood. The test was therefore incorporated in the
Stanford trial series of 1913-14 and tried with 370 non-selected
children within two months of the 6th, 7th, 8th, or 9th birthday. It was
expected that the test would probably be found to belong at about the
8-year level, but it proved to be easy enough for year VII, where
69 per cent of the children passed it. Only 35 per cent of the
6-year-olds succeeded, but after that age the per cent passing increased
rapidly to 94 per cent at 9 years.

This little experiment, simple as it is, seems to fulfill reasonably
well the requirements of a good test. The main objection which might be
brought against it is that it is much subject to the influence of
training. If this were true in any marked degree, the mentally retarded
children of 7-year intelligence should be expected to succeed better
with it than mentally advanced children of the same mental level, since
the former would have had at least two or three years more in which to
learn the task. A comparison of the two groups, however, shows no great
difference. The factor of age, apart from mental age, affects the
results so little that it is evident we have here a real test of

It would, of course, be easy to imagine a child of 7 years who had not
had reasonable opportunity to make the acquaintance of bow-knots or to
learn to tie them. But such children are seldom encountered in the ages
above 6 or 7. Of 68 7-year-olds who were asked whether they had ever
seen a bow-knot ("a knot like that") only two replied in the negative.
It cannot be denied, however, that specific instruction and special
stimulus to practice do play a certain part. This is suggested by the
fact that girls excel the boys somewhat at each age, doubtless because
bow-knots play a larger role in feminine apparel. Social status affects
the results in only a moderate degree, though it might be supposed that
poor ragamuffins, on the one hand, and children of the very rich, on the
other, would both make a poor showing in this test; the former because
of their scanty apparel, the latter because they sometimes have servants
to dress them.

The following are probably the chief factors determining success with
this test: (1) Interest in common objective things; (2) ability to form
permanent associative connections between successive motor cooerdinations
(memory for a series of acts); and (3) skill in the acquisition of
voluntary motor control. The last factor is probably much less important
than the other two. Motor awkwardness often prolongs the time from the
usual ten or fifteen seconds to thirty or forty seconds, but it is
rarely a cause of a failure. The important thing is to be able to
reproduce the appropriate succession of acts, acts which nearly all
children of 7 years, under the joint stimulus of example and spontaneous
interest, have before performed or tried to perform.

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