Giving Differences Between A President And A King

PROCEDURE. Say: "_There are three main differences between a president

and a king; what are they?_" If the subject stops after one difference

is given, we urge him on, if possible, until three are given.

SCORING. The three differences relate to power, tenure, and manner of

accession. Only these differences are considered correct, and the

successful response must include at least two of the three. We disregard
/> crudities of expression and note merely whether the subject has the

essential idea. As regards power, for example, any of the following

responses are satisfactory: "The king is absolute and the president is

not." "The king rules by himself, but the president rules with the help

of the people." "Kings can have things their own way more than

presidents can," etc.

It may be objected that the reverse of this is sometimes true, that the

king of to-day often has less power than the average president.

Sometimes subjects mention this fact, and when they do we credit them

with this part of the test. As a matter of fact, however, this answer is

seldom given.

Sometimes the subject does not stop until he has given a half-dozen or

more differences, and in such cases the first three differences may be

trivial and some of the later ones essential. The question then arises

whether we should disregard the errors and pass the subject on his later

correct responses. The rule in such cases is to ask the subject to pick

out the "three main differences."

Sometimes accession and tenure are given in the form of a single

contrast, as: "The president is elected, but the king inherits his

throne and rules for life." This answer entitles the subject to credit

for both accession and tenure, the contrast as regards tenure being

plainly implied.

Unsatisfactory contrasts are of many kinds and are often amusing. Some

of the most common are the following:--

"A king wears a crown." "A king has jewels." "A king sits on a

throne." ("A king sets on a thorn" as one feeble-minded boy put

it!) "A king lives in a palace." "A king has courtiers." "A king

is very dignified." "A king dresses up more." "A president has

less pomp and ceremony." "A president is more ready to receive

the people." "A king sits on a chair all the time and a

president does not." "No differences; it's just names." "A

president does not give titles." "A king has a larger salary."

"A king has royal blood." "A king is in more danger." "They have

a different title." "A king is more cruel." "Kings have people

beheaded." "A king rules in a monarchy and a president in a

republic." "A king rules in a foreign country." "A president is

elected and a king fights for his office." "A president appoints

governors and a king does not." "A president lets the lawyers

make the laws." "Everybody works for a king."

It is surprising to see how often trivial differences like the above are

given. About thirty "average adults" out of a hundred, including

high-school students, give at least one unsatisfactory contrast.

The test has been criticized as depending too much on schooling. The

criticism is to a certain extent valid when the test is used with young

subjects, say of 10 or 12 years. It is not valid, however, if the use of

the test is confined to older subjects. With the latter, it is not a

test of knowledge, but of the discriminative capacity to deal with

knowledge already in the possession of the subject. It would be

difficult to find an adult, not actually feeble-minded, who is ignorant

of the facts called for: That the king inherits his throne, while the

president is elected; that the tenure of the king is for life, and that

of the president for a term of years; that kings ordinarily have, or are

supposed to have, more power. Even the relatively stupid adult knows

this; but he also knows that kings are different from presidents in

having crowns, thrones, palaces, robes, courtiers, larger pay, etc., and

he makes no discrimination as regards the relative importance of these


The test is psychologically related to that of giving differences in

year VII and to the two tests of finding similarities; but it differs

from these in requiring a comparison based on fundamental rather than

accidental distinctions. The idea is good and should be worked out in

additional tests of the same type.

The test first appeared in the Binet revised scale of 1911. Kuhlmann

omits it, and besides our own there are few statistics bearing on it.

Our results show that if two essential differences are required, the

test belongs where we have placed it, but that if only one essential

difference is required, the test is easy enough for year XII.