Finding Rhymes

PROCEDURE. Say to the child: "_You know what a rhyme is, of course. A

rhyme is a word that sounds like another word. Two words rhyme if they

end in the same sound. Understand?_" Whether the child says he

understands or not, we proceed to illustrate what a rhyme is, as

follows: "_Take the two words 'hat' and 'cat.' They sound alike and so

they make a rhyme. 'Hat,' 'rat,' 'cat,' 'bat' all rhyme with one

br />

That is, we first explain what a rhyme is and then we give an

illustration. A large majority of American children who have reached the

age of 9 years understand perfectly what a rhyme is, without any

illustration. A few, however, think they understand, but do not; and in

order to insure that all are given equal advantage it is necessary never

to omit the illustration.

After the illustration say: "_Now, I am going to give you a word and you

will have one minute to find as many words as you can that rhyme with

it. The word is 'day.' Name all the words you can think of that rhyme

with 'day.'_"

If the child fails with the first word, before giving the second we

repeat the explanation and give sample rhymes for _day_; otherwise we

proceed without further explanation to _mill_ and _spring_, saying,

"_Now, you have another minute to name all the words you can think of

that rhyme with 'mill,'_" etc. Apart from the mention of "one minute"

say nothing to suggest hurrying, as this tends to throw some children

into mental confusion.

SCORING. Passed if in _two out of the three_ parts of the experiment the

child finds _three words_ which rhyme with the word given, the time

limit for each series being _one minute_. Note that in each case there

must be three words in addition to the word given. These must be real

words, not meaningless syllables or made-up words. However, we should be

liberal enough to accept such words as _ding_ (from "ding-dong ") for

_spring_, _Jill_ (see "Jack and Jill") for _mill_, _Fay_ (girl's name)

for _day_, etc.

REMARKS. At first thought it would seem that the demands made by this

test upon intelligence could not be very great. Sound associations

between words may be contrasted unfavorably with associations like those

of cause and effect, part to whole, whole to part, opposites, etc. But

when we pass from _a-priori_ considerations to an examination of the

actual data, we find that the giving of rhymes is closely correlated

with general intelligence.

The 9-year-olds who test at or above 10 years nearly always do well in

finding rhymes, while 9-year-olds who test as low as 8 years seldom

pass. When a test thus shows high correlation with the scale as a whole,

we must either accept the test as valid or reject the scale altogether.

While the feeble-minded do not do as well in this test as normal

children of corresponding mental age, the percentage successes for them

rises rapidly between mental age 8 and mental age 10 or 11.

Closer psychological analysis of the processes involved will show why

this is true. To find rhymes for a given word means that one must hunt

out verbal associations under the direction of a guiding idea. Every

word has innumerable associations and many of these tend, in greater or

less degree, to be aroused when the stimulus word is given. In order to

succeed with the test, however, it is necessary to inhibit all

associations which are not relevant to the desired end. The directing

idea must be held so firmly in mind that it will really direct the

thought associations. Besides acting to inhibit the irrelevant, it must

create a sort of magnetic stress (to borrow a figure from physics) which

will give dominance to those associative tendencies pointing in the

right direction. Even the feeble-minded child of imbecile grade has in

his vocabulary a great many words which rhyme with _day_, _mill_, and

_spring_. He fails on the test because his verbal associations cannot be

subjugated to the influence of a directing idea. The end to be attained

does not dominate consciousness sufficiently to create more than a faint

stress. Instead of a single magnetic pole there is a conflict of forces.

The result is either chaos or partial success. _Mill_ may suggest

_hill_, and then perhaps the directing idea becomes suddenly inoperative

and the child gives _mountain_, _valley_, or some other irrelevant

association. The lack of associations, however, is a more frequent cause

of failure than inability to inhibit the irrelevant.

If any one supposes that finding rhymes does not draw upon the higher

mental powers, let him try the experiment upon himself in various stages

of mental efficiency, say at 9 A.M., when mentally refreshed by a good

night of sleep and again when fatigued and sleepy. Poets questioned by

Galton on this point all testified to the greater difficulty of finding

rhymes when mentally fatigued. In this and in many other respects the

mental activities of the fatigued or sleepy individual approach the type

of mentation which is normal to the feeble-minded.

It is important to note that adults make a less favorable showing

in this test than normal children of corresponding mental age,

Mr. Knollin's "hoboes" of 12-year intelligence doing hardly as well as

school children of 10-year intelligence. Those who are habitually

employed in school exercises probably acquire an adeptness in verbal

associations which is later gradually lost in the preoccupations of real


There has been more disagreement as to the proper location of this test

than of any other test of the Binet scale. Binet placed it in year XII

of the 1908 scale, but shifted it to year XV in 1911. Kuhlmann retains

it in year XII, while Goddard drops it down to year XI. However, when we

examine the actual statistics for normal children we do not find very

marked disagreement, and such disagreement as is present can be largely

accounted for by variations in procedure and by differing conclusions

drawn from identical data. In the first place, Binet gave but one trial.

This, of course, makes the test much harder than when three trials are

given and only two successes are required. To make one trial equal in

difficulty to three trials we should perhaps need to demand only two

rhymes, instead of three, in the one trial. In the second place, the

word used by Binet (_obeissance_) is much harder than one-syllable words

like _day_, _mill_, and _spring_. Finally, the wide shift of the test

from year XII to year XV was not justified by the statistics of Binet

himself, and the figures of Kuhlmann and Goddard are really in

exceptionally close agreement with our own, notwithstanding the fact

that Goddard required three successes instead of two. In four series of

tests, considered together, we have found 62 per cent passing at

year IX, 81 per cent at year X, 83 per cent at year XI, and 94 per cent

at year XII.