Interpretation Of Pictures
PROCEDURE. Use the same pictures as in III, 1, and VII, 2, and the
additional picture _d_. Present in the same order. The formula to begin
with is identical with that in VII, 2: "_Tell me what this picture is
about. What is this a picture of?_" This formula is chosen because it
does not suggest specifically either description or interpretation, and
is therefore adapted to show the child's spontaneous or natural mode of
apperception. However, in case, this formula fails to bring spontaneous
interpretation for three of the four pictures, we then return to those
pictures on which the subject has failed and give a second trial with
the formula: "_Explain this picture_." A good many subjects who failed
to interpret the pictures spontaneously do so without difficulty when
the more specific formula is used.
If the response is so brief as to be difficult to classify, the subject
should be urged to amplify by some such injunction as "_Go ahead_," or
"_Explain what you mean_."
One more caution. It is necessary to refrain from voicing a single word
of commendation or approval until all the pictures have been responded
to. A moment's thought will reveal the absolute necessity of adhering to
this rule. Often a subject will begin by giving an inferior type of
response (description, say) to the first picture, but with the second
picture adjusts better to the task and responds satisfactorily. If in
such a case the first (unsatisfactory) response were greeted with an
approving "That's fine, you are doing splendidly," the likelihood of any
improvement taking place as the test proceeds would be greatly lessened.
SCORING. _Three pictures out of four_ must be satisfactorily
interpreted. "Satisfactorily" means that the interpretation given should
be reasonably plausible; not necessarily the exact one the artist had in
mind, yet not absurd. The following classified responses will serve as
a fairly secure guide for scoring:--
(a) _Dutch Home_
_Satisfactory._ "Child has spilled something and is getting a
scolding." "The baby has hurt herself and the mother is
comforting her." "The baby is crying because she is hungry and
the mother has nothing to give her." "The little girl has been
naughty and is about to be punished." "The baby is crying
because she does not like her dinner." "There's bread on the
table and the mother won't let the little girl have it and so
she is crying." "The baby is begging for something and is crying
because her mamma won't give it to her." "It's a poor family.
The father is dead and they don't have enough to eat."
_Unsatisfactory._ "The baby is crying and the mother is looking
at her" (description). "It's in Holland, and there's a little
girl crying, and a mamma, and there's a dish on the table"
(mainly description). "The mother is teaching the child to walk"
(b) _River Scene_
_Satisfactory._ "Man and lady eloping to get married and an
Indian to row for them." "I think it represents a honeymoon
trip." "In frontier days and a man and his wife have been
captured by the Indians." "It's a perilous journey and they have
engaged the Indian to row for them."
_Unsatisfactory._ "They are shooting the rapids." "An Indian
rowing a man and his wife down the river" (mainly description).
"A storm at sea" (absurd interpretation). "Indians have rescued
a couple from a shipwreck." "They have been up the river and
are riding down the rapids."
The following responses are somewhat doubtful, but should
probably be scored _minus_: "People going out hunting and have
Indian for a guide." "The man has rescued the woman from the
Indians." "It's a camping trip."
_Satisfactory._ "It's a lot of old farmers. They have come to
the post-office to get the paper, which only comes once a week,
and they are all happy." "There's something funny in the paper
about one of the men and they are all laughing about it." "They
are reading about the price of eggs, and they look very happy so
I guess the price has gone up." "It's a bunch of country
politicians reading the election news."
_Unsatisfactory._ "A man has just come out of the post-office
and is reading to his friends." "It's a little country town and
they are looking at the paper." "A man is reading the paper and
the others are looking on and laughing." "Some men are reading a
paper and laughing, and the other man has brought some eggs to
market, and it's in a little country town." (All the above are
Responses like the following are somewhat better, but hardly
satisfactory: "They are reading something funny in the paper."
"They are reading the ads." "They are laughing about something
in the newspaper," etc.
(d) _Colonial Home_
_Satisfactory._ "They are lovers and have quarreled." "The man
has to go away for a long time, maybe to war, and she is afraid
he won't return." "He has proposed and she has rejected him, and
she is crying because she hated to disappoint him." "The woman
is crying because her husband is angry and leaving her." "The
man is a messenger and has brought the woman bad news."
_Unsatisfactory._ "The husband is leaving and the dog is looking
at the lady." "It's a picture to show how people dressed in
colonial times." "The lady is crying and the man is trying to
comfort her." "The man is going away. The woman is angry because
he is going. The dog has a ball in its mouth and looks happy,
and the man looks sad."
Such responses as the following are doubtful, but rather _minus_
than _plus_: "A picture of George Washington's home." "They
have lost their money and they are sad" (gratuitous
interpretation). "The man has struck the woman."
Doubt sometimes arises as to the proper scoring of imaginative
or gratuitous interpretations. The following are samples of
such: (a) "The little girl is crying because she wants a new
dress and the mother is telling her she can have one when
Christmas comes if she will be good." (b) "The man and woman
have gone up the river to visit some friends and an Indian guide
is bringing them home." (c) "Some old Rubes are reading about
a circus that's going to come." (d) "Napoleon leaving his
Sometimes these imaginative responses are given by very bright subjects,
under the impression that they are asked to "make up" a story based on
the picture. We may score them _plus_, provided they are not too much
out of harmony with the situation and actions represented in the
picture. Interpretations so gratuitous as to have little or no bearing
upon the scene depicted should be scored _minus_.
REMARKS. The test of picture interpretation has been variously located
from 12 to 15 years. It cannot be too strongly emphasized that
everything depends on the nature of the pictures used, the form in which
the question is put, and the standard for scoring. The Jingleman-Jack
pictures used by Kuhlmann are as easy to interpret at 10 years as the
Stanford pictures at 12. Spontaneous interpretation ("What is this a
picture of?" or "What do you see in this picture?") comes no more
readily at 14 years than provoked interpretation ("Explain this
picture") at 12. The standard of scoring is no less important. If with
the Stanford pictures we require three satisfactory responses out of
four, the test belongs at the 12-year level, but the standard of two
correct out of four can be met a year or two earlier.
Even after we have agreed upon a given series of pictures, the formula
for giving the test, and upon the requisite number of passes, there
remains still the question as to the proper degree of liberality in
deciding what constitutes interpretation. There is no single point in
mental development where the "ability to interpret pictures" sweeps in
with a rush. Like the development of most other abilities, it comes by
slow degrees, beginning even as early as 6 years.
The question is, therefore, to decide whether a given response contains
as much and as good interpretation as we have a right to expect at the
age level where the test has been placed. It is imperative for any one
who would use the scale correctly to acquaint himself thoroughly with
the procedure and standards described above.