Arranging Five Weights
Use the five weights, 3, 6, 9, 12, and 15 grams. Be sure that the
weights are identical in appearance. The weights may be made as
described under V, 1, or they may be purchased of C. H. Stoelting & Co.,
Chicago, Illinois. If no weights are at hand one of the alternative
tests may be substituted.
PROCEDURE. Place the five boxes on the table in an irregular group
before the child and say: "_See the boxes. T
ey all look alike, don't
they? But they are not alike. Some of them are heavy, some are not quite
so heavy, and some are still lighter. No two weigh the same. Now, I want
you to find the heaviest one and place it here. Then find the one that
is just a little lighter and put it here. Then put the next lighter one
here, and the next lighter one here, and the lightest of all at this
end_ (pointing each time at the appropriate spot). _Do you understand?_"
Whatever the child answers, in order to make sure that he does
understand, we repeat the instructions thus: "_Remember now, that no two
weights are the same. Find the heaviest one and put it here, the next
heaviest here, and lighter, lighter, until you have the very lightest
here. Ready; go ahead._"
It is best to follow very closely the formula here given, otherwise
there is danger of stating the directions so abstractly that the subject
could not comprehend them. A formula like "_I want you to arrange the
blocks in a gradually decreasing series according to weight_" would be
Greek to most children of 10 years.
If the subject still seems at a loss to know what to do, the
instructions may be again repeated. But no further help of any kind may
be given. Do not tell the subject to take the blocks one at a time in
the hand and try them, and do not illustrate by hefting the blocks
yourself. It is a part of the test to let the subject find his own
Give three trials, shuffling the boxes after each. Do not repeat the
instructions before the second and third trials unless the subject has
used an absurd procedure in the previous trial.
SCORING. The test is passed if the blocks are arranged in the correct
order _twice out of three trials_. Always record the order of
arrangement and note the number and extent of displacement. Obviously an
arrangement like 12-6-15-3-9 is very much more serious than one like
15-12-6-9-3, but we require that two trials be absolutely without error.
Scoring is facilitated if the blocks are marked on the bottom so that
they may be easily identified. It is then necessary to exercise some
care to see that the subject does not examine the bottom of the blocks
for a clue as to the correct order.
REMARKS. Binet originally located this test in year IX, but in his 1911
revision changed it to year VIII. Other revisions have retained it in
year IX. The correct location depends upon the weights used and upon the
procedure and scoring. Kuhlmann uses weights of 3, 9, 18, 27, 36, and
45 grams, and this probably makes the test easier. Bobertag tried two
sets of boxes, one set being of larger dimensions than the other. The
larger gave decidedly the more errors. If we require only one success in
three trials the test could be located a year or two lower in the scale,
while three successes as a standard would require that it be moved
upward possibly as much as two years.
Much depends also on whether the child is left to find his own method,
and on this there has been much difference of procedure. Kuhlmann,
Bobertag, and Wallin illustrate the correct method of making the
comparison by first hefting and arranging the weights while the subject
looks on. We prefer to keep the test in its original form, and with the
procedure and scoring we have used it is well located in year IX.
Wallin carries his assistance still further by saying, after the first
block has been placed, "Now, find the heaviest of the four," and after
the second has been placed, "Now, find the heaviest of the three," etc.
Finally, when the arrangement has been made, he tells the subject to try
them again to make sure the order is correct, allowing the subject to
make whatever changes he thinks necessary. This procedure robs the test
of its most valuable features. The experiment was not devised primarily
as a test of sensory discrimination, for it has long been recognized
that individuals who have developed as far as the 9- or 10-year level of
intelligence are ordinarily but little below normal in sensory capacity.
Psychologically, the test resembles that of comparing weights in V, 1.
Success depends, in the first place, upon the correct comprehension of
the task and the setting of a goal to be attained; secondly, upon the
choice of a suitable method for realizing the goal; and finally, upon
the ability to keep the end clearly in consciousness until all the steps
necessary for its attainment have been gone through. Elementary as are
the processes involved, they represent the prototype of all purposeful
behavior. The statesman, the lawyer, the teacher, the physician, the
carpenter, all in their own way and with their own materials, are
continually engaged in setting goals, choosing means, and inhibiting the
multitudinous appeals of irrelevant and distracting ideas.
In this experiment the subject may fail in any one of the three
requirements of the test or in all of them. (1) He may not comprehend
the instructions and so be unable to set the goal. (2) Though
understanding what is expected of him, he may adopt an absurd method of
carrying out the task. Or (3) he may lose sight of the end and begin to
play with the blocks, stacking them on top of one another, building
trains, tossing them about, etc. Sometimes the guiding idea is not
completely lost, but is weakened or rendered only partially operative.
In such a case the subject may compare some of the blocks carefully,
place others without trying them at all, but continue in his
half-rational, half-irrational procedure until all the blocks have been
It is essential, therefore, to supplement the mere record of success or
failure by jotting down a brief but accurate description of the
performance. Note any hesitation or inability to grasp the instructions.
Note especially any absurd procedure, such as placing all the blocks
without hefting any of them, comparing only some of them, holding them
up and shaking them, hefting two at once in the same hand, etc. The
ideal method, of course, is to try all the blocks carefully before
placing any of them, then to make a tentative arrangement, and finally,
to correct this tentative arrangement by means of individual
comparisons. A slight departure from this method does not always bring
failure, but it renders success less probable. As a rule it is only the
very intelligent children of 10 years who think to test out their first
arrangement by making a final and additional trial of each block in
turn. Contrary to what might be supposed, success is slightly favored by
hefting the blocks successively with one hand rather than by taking one
in each hand for simultaneous comparison, but as the child cannot be
expected to know this, we must regard the two methods as equally
The test of arranging weights has met universal praise. Its special
advantage is that it tests the subject's intelligence in the
manipulation of _things_ rather than his capacity for dealing with
_abstractions_. It tests his ability to do something rather than his
ability to express himself in language. It throws light upon certain
factors of motor adaptation and practical judgment which play a great
part in the everyday life of the average human being. It depends as
little upon school, perhaps, as any other test of the scale, and it is
readily usable with children of all nations without danger of being
materially altered in translation Moreover, it is always an interesting
test for the child. Bobertag goes so far as to say that any 8- or 9-year
child who passes this test cannot possibly be feeble-minded. This may be
true; but the converse is hardly the case; that is, the failure of older
children is by no means certain proof of mental retardation. The same
observation, however, applies equally well to many other of the Binet
tests, some of which correlate more closely with true mental age than
this one. A rather considerable fraction of normal 12-year-olds fail on
it, and it is in fact somewhat less dependable than certain other tests
if we wish to differentiate between 9-year and 11-year intelligence. But
it is a test we could ill afford to eliminate.