Adhering To Formula

It cannot be too strongly emphasized that unless we

follow a standardized procedure the tests lose their significance. The

danger is chiefly that of unintentionally and unconsciously introducing

variations which will affect the meaning of the test. One who has not

had a thorough training in the methods of mental testing cannot

appreciate how numerous are the opportunities for the unconscious

transformation of a test. M
ny of these are pointed out in the

description of the individual tests, but it would be folly to undertake

to warn the experimenter against every possible error of this kind.

Sometimes the omission or the addition of a single phrase in giving

the test will alter materially the significance of the response.

Only the trained psychologist can vary the formula without risk of

invalidating the result, and even he must be on his guard. All sorts of

misunderstandings regarding the correct placing of tests and regarding

their accuracy or inaccuracy have come about through the failure of

different investigators to follow the same procedure.

One who would use the tests for any serious purpose, therefore,

must study the procedure for each and every test until he knows it

thoroughly. After that a considerable amount of practice is necessary

before one learns to avoid slips. During the early stages of practice it

is necessary to refer to the printed instructions frequently in order to

check up errors before they have become habitual.

The instructions hitherto available are at fault in not defining the

procedure with sufficient definiteness, and it is the purpose of this

volume to make good this deficiency as far as possible.

It is too much, however, to suppose that the instructions can be made

"fool-proof." With whatever definiteness they may be set forth,

situations are sure to arise which the examiner cannot be formally

prepared for. There is no limit to the multitude of misunderstandings

possible. After testing hundreds of children one still finds new

examples of misapprehension. In a few such cases the instruction may be

repeated, if there is reason to think the child's hearing was at fault

or if some extraordinary distraction has occurred. But unless otherwise

stated in the directions, the repetition of a question is ordinarily to

be avoided. Supplementary explanations are hardly ever permissible.

In short, numberless situations may arise in the use of a test which may

injure the validity of the response, events which cannot always be

dealt with by preconceived rule. Accordingly, although we must urge

unceasingly the importance of following the standard procedure, it is

not to be supposed that formulas are an adequate substitute either for

scientific judgment or for common sense.