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.