Giving Similarities; Two Things

PROCEDURE. Say to the child: "_I am going to name two things which are

alike in some way, and I want you to tell me how they are alike. Wood

and coal: in what way are they alike?_" Proceed in the same manner


_An apple and a peach._

_Iron and silver._

_A ship and an automobile._

After the first pair the formula may be abbreviated to "_In what way are

/> ... and ... alike?_" It is often necessary to insist a little if the

child is silent or says he does not know, but in doing this we must

avoid supplementary questions and suggestions. In giving the first pair,

for example, it would not be permissible to ask such additional

questions as, "_What do you use wood for? What do you use coal for? And

now, how are wood and coal alike?_" This is really putting the answer in

the child's mouth. It is only permissible to repeat the original

question in a persuasive tone of voice, and perhaps to add: "_I'm sure

you can tell me how ... and ... are alike_," or something to that


A very common mistake which the child makes is to give differences

instead of similarities. This tendency is particularly strong if test 5,

year VII (giving differences), has been given earlier in the sitting,

but it happens often enough in other cases also to suggest that finding

differences is, to a much greater extent than finding similarities, the

child's preferred method of making a comparison. When a difference is

given, instead of a similarity, we say: "_No, I want you to tell me how

they are alike. In what way are ... and ... alike?_" Unless the child is

of rather low intelligence level this is sufficient, but the mentally

retarded sometimes continue to give differences persistently in spite

of repeated admonitions, or if they cease to do so for one or two

comparisons, they are likely to repeat the mistake in the latter part of

the test.

SCORING. The test is passed if a likeness is given in _two out of four_

comparisons. We accept as satisfactory any real likeness, whether

fundamental or superficial, though, of course, the more essential the

resemblance, the better indication it is of intelligence. The following

are samples of satisfactory and unsatisfactory answers:--[58]

[58] For aid in classifying the responses in this and certain other

tests the writer is indebted to Miss Grace Lyman.

(a) _Wood and coal_

_Satisfactory._ "Both burn." "Both keep you warm." "Both are

used for fuel." "Both are vegetable matter." "Both come from the

ground." "Can use them both for running engines." "Both hard."

"Both heavy." "Both cost money."

Of 80 correct answers, 64, or 80 per cent, referred in one way

or another to combustibility.

_Unsatisfactory._ Most frequent is the persistent giving of a

difference instead of a similarity. This accounts for a little

over half of all the failures. About half of the remainder are

cases of inability to give any response. Incorrect statements

with regard to color are rather common. Sample failures of this

type are: "Both are black," or "Both the same color." Other

failures are: "Both are dirty on the outside;" "You can't break

them;" "Coal burns better;" "Wood is lighter than coal," etc.

(b) _An apple and a peach_

_Satisfactory._ "Both are round." "Both the same shape." "They

are about the same color." "Both nearly always have some red on

them." "Both good to eat." "Can make pies of both of them."

"Both can be cooked." "Both mellow when they are ripe." "Both

have a stem" (or seeds, skin, etc.). "Both come from trees."

"Can be dried in the same way." "Both are fruits." "Both green

(in color) when they are not ripe."

Of 82 correct answers, 25 per cent mention color; 25 per cent,

form; 22 per cent, edibility; 20 per cent, having stem, seed, or

skin; and 5 per cent, that both grow on trees.

_Unsatisfactory._ "Both taste the same." "Both have a lot of

seeds." "Both have a fuzzy skin." "An apple is bigger than a

peach." "One is red and one is white," etc.

Again, over 50 per cent of the failures are due to giving

differences and about 18 per cent to silence.

(c) _Iron and silver_

_Satisfactory._ "Both are metals" (or mineral). "Both come out

of the ground." "Both cost money." "Both are heavy." "Both are

hard." "Both can be melted." "Both can be bent." "Both used for

utensils." "You manufacture things out of both of them." "Both

can be polished."

These are named most frequently in the following order: (1)

hardness, (2) origin from the ground, (3) heaviness, (4) use in

making things.

_Unsatisfactory._ "Both thin" (or thick). "Sometimes they are

the same shape." "Both the same color." "A little silver and

lots of iron weigh the same." "Both made by the same company."

"They rust the same." "You can't eat them" (!)[59]

[59] One is here reminded of the puzzling conundrum, "Why is a

brick like an elephant?" The answer being, "Because neither can

climb a tree!" A response of this type states a fact, but because

of its bizarre nature should hardly be counted satisfactory.

Of 60 failures, 32 were due to giving differences and 14 to

silence or unwillingness to hazard a reply.

(d) _A ship and an automobile_

_Satisfactory._ "Both means of travel." "Both go." "You ride in

them." "Both take you fast." "They both use fuel." "Both run by

machinery." "Both have a steering gear." "Both have engines in

them." "Both have wood in them." "Both can be wrecked." "Both

break if they hit a rock."

About 45 per cent of the answers are in terms of running or

travel, 37 per cent in terms of machinery or structure, the rest


_Unsatisfactory._ "Both black" (or some other color). "Both very

big." "They are made alike." "Both run on wheels." "Ship is for

the water and automobile for the land." "Ship goes on water and

an automobile sometimes goes in water." "An auto can go faster."

"Ship is run by coal and automobile by gasoline."

Of 51 failures, 32 were due to giving differences and 14 to

failure to reply.

REMARKS. The test of finding similarities was first used by Binet in

1905. Our results show that it is fully as satisfactory as the test of

giving differences. The test reveals in a most interesting way one of

the fundamental weaknesses of the feeble mind. Young normal children,

say of 7 or 8 years, often fail to pass, but it is the feeble-minded who

give the greatest number of absurd answers and who also find greatest

difficulty in resisting the tendency to give differences.