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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