Influence Of Social And Educational Advantages

The criticism has often been made that the responses to many of the tests are so

much subject to the influence of school and home environment as seriously to invalidate

the scale as a whole. Some of the tests most often named in this

connection are the following: Giving age and sex; naming common objects,

colors, and coins; giving the value of stamps; giving date; naming the

months of the year and the days of the week; distinguish
ng forenoon and

afternoon; counting; making change; reading for memories; naming sixty

words; giving definitions; finding rhymes; and constructing a sentence

containing three given words.

It has in fact been found wherever comparisons have been made that

children of superior social status yield a higher average mental age

than children of the laboring classes. The results of Decroly and Degand

and of Meumann, Stern, and Binet himself may be referred to in this

connection. In the case of the Stanford investigation, also, it was

found that when the unselected school children were grouped in three

classes according to social status (superior, average, and inferior),

the average I Q for the superior social group was 107, and that of the

inferior social group 93. This is equivalent to a difference of one year

in mental age with 7-year-olds, and to a difference of two years with


However, the common opinion that the child from a cultured home does

better in tests solely by reason of his superior home advantages is an

entirely gratuitous assumption. Practically all of the investigations

which have been made of the influence of nature and nurture on mental

performance agree in attributing far more to original endowment than to

environments. Common observation would itself suggest that the social

class to which the family belongs depends less on chance than on the

parents' native qualities of intellect and character.

The results of five separate and distinct lines of inquiry based on the

Stanford data agree in supporting the conclusion that the children of

successful and cultured parents test higher than children from wretched

and ignorant homes for the simple reason that their heredity is better.

The results of this investigation are set forth in full elsewhere.

It would, of course, be going too far to deny all possibility of

environmental conditions affecting the result of an intelligence test.

Certainly no one would expect that a child reared in a cage and denied

all intercourse with other human beings could by any system of mental

measurement test up to the level of normal children. There is, however,

no reason to believe that _ordinary_ differences in social environment

(apart from heredity), differences such as those obtaining among

unselected children attending approximately the same general type of

school in a civilized community, affects to any great extent the

validity of the scale.

A crucial experiment would be to take a large number of very young

children of the lower classes and, after placing them in the most

favorable environment obtainable, to compare their later mental

development with that of children born into the best homes. No extensive

study of this kind has been made, but the writer has tested twenty

orphanage children who, for the most part, had come from very inferior

homes. They had been in a well-conducted orphanage for from two to

several years, and had enjoyed during that time the advantages of an

excellent village school. Nevertheless, all but three tested below

average, ranging from 75 to 90 I Q.

The impotence of school instruction to neutralize individual differences

in native endowment will be evident to any one who follows the school

career of backward children. The children who are seriously retarded in

school are not normal, and cannot be made normal by any refinement of

educational method. As a rule, the longer the inferior child attends

school, the more evident his inferiority becomes. It would hardly be

reasonable, therefore, to expect that a little incidental instruction in

the home would weigh very heavily against these same native differences

in endowment. Cases like the following show conclusively that it does


X is the son of unusually intelligent and well-educated parents.

The home is everything one would expect of people of scholarly

pursuits and cultivated tastes. But X has always been

irresponsible, troublesome, childish, and queer. He learned to

walk at 2 years, to talk at 3, and has always been delicate and

nervous. When brought for examination he was 8 years old. He had

twice attempted school work, but could accomplish nothing and

was withdrawn. His play-life was not normal, and other children,

younger than himself, abused and tormented him. The Binet tests

gave an I Q of approximately 75; that is, the retardation

amounted to about two years. The child was examined again three

years later. At that time, after attending school two years, he

had recently completed the first grade. This time the I Q was

73. Strange to say, the mother is encouraged and hopeful because

she sees that her boy is learning to read. She does not seem to

realize that at his age he ought to be within three years of

entering high school.

The forty-minute test had told more about the mental ability of

this boy than the intelligent mother had been able to learn in

eleven years of daily and hourly observation. For X is

feeble-minded; he will never complete the grammar school; he

will never be an efficient worker or a responsible citizen.

Let us change the picture. Z is a bright-eyed, dark-skinned girl

of 9 years. She is dark-skinned because her father is a mixture

of Indian and Spanish. The mother is of Irish descent. With her

strangely mated parents and two brothers she lives in a dirty,

cramped, and poorly furnished house in the country. The parents

are illiterate, and the brothers are retarded and dull, though

not feeble-minded.

It is Z's turn to be tested. I inquire the name. It is familiar,

for I have already tested the two stupid brothers. I also know

her ignorant parents and the miserable cabin in which she lives.

The examination begins with the 8-year tests. The responses are

quick and accurate. We proceed to the 9-year group. There is no

failure, and there is but one minor error. Successes and

failures alternate for a while until the latter prevail. Z has

tested at 11 years. In spite of her wretched home, she is

mentally advanced nearly 25 per cent. By the vocabulary test she

is credited with a knowledge of nearly 6000 words, or nearly

four times as many as X, the boy of cultured home and scholarly

parents, had learned by the age of 8 years.

Five years have passed. When given the test, Z was in the fourth

grade and, as we have already stated, 9 years of age. As a

result of the test she was transferred to the fifth grade. Later

she skipped again and at the age of 14 is a successful student

in the second year of high school. To assay her intelligence and

determine its quality was a task of forty-five minutes.

The above cases, each of which could be paralleled by many others which

we have found, will serve to illustrate the fact that exceptionally

superior endowment is discoverable by the tests, however unfavorable the

home from which it comes, and that inferior endowment cannot be

normalized by all the advantages of the most cultured home. Quoting

again from Stern, "The tests actually reach and discover the general

developmental conditions of intelligence, and not mere fragments of

knowledge and attainments acquired by chance."