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

education.





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