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"

(absurd interpretation).

(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."

(c) _Post-Office_

_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

mainly description.)

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.