Naming Sixty Words
PROCEDURE. Say: "_Now, I want to see how many different words you can
name in three minutes. When I say ready, you must begin and name the
words as fast as you can, and I will count them. Do you understand? Be
sure to do your very best, and remember that just any words will do,
like 'clouds,' 'dog,' 'chair,' 'happy'--Ready; go ahead!_"
The instructions may be repeated if the subject does not understand what
is wanted. As a rule the task is comprehended instantly and entered into
with great zest.
Do not stare at the child, and do not say anything as the test proceeds
unless there is a pause of fifteen seconds. In this event say: "_Go
ahead, as fast as you can. Any words will do._" Repeat this urging after
every pause of fifteen seconds.
Some subjects, usually rather intelligent ones, hit upon the device of
counting or putting words together in sentences. We then break in with:
"_Counting_ (or _sentences_, as the case may be) _not allowed. You must
name separate words. Go ahead._"
Record the individual words if possible, and mark the end of each
half-minute. If the words are named so rapidly that they cannot be taken
down, it is easy to keep the count by making a pencil stroke for each
word. If the latter method is employed, repeated words may be indicated
by making a cross instead of a single stroke. Always make record of
SCORING. The test is passed if _sixty_ words, exclusive of repetitions,
are named in three minutes. It is not allowable to accept twenty words
in one minute or forty words in two minutes as an equivalent of the
expected score. Only real words are counted.
REMARKS. Scoring, as we have seen, takes account only of the number of
words. It is instructive, however, to note the kind of words given. Some
subjects, more often those of the 8- or 9-year intelligence level, give
mainly isolated, detached words. As well stated by Binet, "Little
children exhaust an idea in naming it. They say, for example, _hat_, and
then pass on to another word without noticing that hats differ in color,
in form, have various parts, different uses and accessories, and that in
enumerating all these they could find a large number of words."
Others quickly take advantage of such relationships and name many parts
of an object before leaving it, or name a number of other objects
belonging to the same class. _Hat_, for example, suggests _cap_, _hood_,
_coat_, _shirt_, _shoes_, _stockings_, etc. _Pencil_ suggests _book_,
_slate_, _paper_, _desk_, _ink_, _map_, _school-yard_, _teacher_, etc.
Responses of this type may be made up of ten or a dozen plainly distinct
Another type of response consists in naming only objects present, or
words which present objects immediately suggest. It is unfortunate that
this occurs, since rooms in which testing is done vary so much with
respect to furnishings. The subject who chooses this method is obviously
handicapped if the room is relatively bare. One way to avoid this
influence is to have all subjects name the words with eyes closed, but
the distraction thus caused is sometimes rather disturbing. It is
perhaps best for the present to adhere to the original procedure, and to
follow the rule of making tests in a room containing few furnishings in
addition to the necessary table and chairs.
A fourth type of response is that including a large proportion of
unusual or abstract words. This is the best of all, and is hardly ever
found except with subjects who are above the 11-year intelligence level.
It goes without saying that a response need not belong entirely to any
one of the above types. Most responses, in fact, are characterized by a
mixture of two or three of the types, one of them perhaps being
Though not without its shortcomings, the test is interesting and
valuable. Success in it does not, as one might suppose, depend solely
upon the size of the vocabulary. Even 8-year-olds ordinarily know the
meaning of more than 3000 words, and by 10 years the vocabulary usually
exceeds 5000 words, or eighty times as many as the child is expected to
name in three minutes. The main factors in success are two, (1) richness
and variety of previously made associations with common words; and (2)
the readiness of these associations to reinstate themselves. The young
or the retarded subject fishes in the ocean of his vocabulary with a
single hook, so to speak. He brings up each time only one word. The
subject endowed with superior intelligence employs a net (the idea of a
class, for example) and brings up a half-dozen words or more. The latter
accomplishes a greater amount and with less effort; but it requires
intelligence and will power to avoid wasting time with detached words.
One is again and again astonished at the poverty of associations which
this test discloses with retarded subjects. For twenty or thirty seconds
such children may be unable to think of a single word. It would be
interesting if at such periods we could get a glimpse into the subject's
consciousness. There must be some kind of mental content, but it seems
too vague to be crystallized in words. The ready association of thoughts
with definite words connotes a relatively high degree of intellectual
advancement. Language forms are the short-hand of thought; without
facile command of language, thinking is vague, clumsy, and ineffective.
Conversely, vague mental content entails language shortage.
Occasionally a child of 11- or 12-year intelligence will make a poor
showing in this test. When this happens it is usually due either to
excessive embarrassment or to a strange persistence in running down all
the words of a given class before launching out upon a new series.
Occasionally, too, an intelligent subject wastes time in thinking up a
beautiful list of big or unusual words. As stated by Bobertag, success
is favored by a certain amount of "intellectual nonchalance," a
willingness to ignore sense and a readiness to break away from a train
of associations as soon as the "point of diminishing returns" has been
reached. This doubtless explains why adults sometimes make such a
surprisingly poor showing in the test. They have less "intellectual
nonchalance" than children, are less willing to subordinate such
considerations as completeness and logical connection to the demands of
speed. Knollin's unemployed men of 12- to 13-year intelligence succeeded
no better than school children of the 10-year level.
We do not believe, however, that this fault is serious enough to warrant
the elimination of the test. The fact is that in a large majority of
cases the score which it yields agrees fairly closely with the result of
the scale as a whole. Subjects more than a year or two below the mental
age of 10 years seldom succeed. Those more than a year or two above the
10-year level seldom fail.
There is another reason why the test should be retained, it often has
significance beyond that which appears in the mere number of words
given. The naming of unusual and abstract words is an instance of this.
An unusually large number of repetitions has symptomatic significance
in the other direction. It indicates a tendency to mental stereotypy, so
frequently encountered in testing the feeble-minded. The proportion of
repetitions made by normal children of the 10- or 11-year intelligence
level rarely exceeds 2 or 3 per cent of the total number of words named;
those of older retarded children of the same level occasionally reach
6 or 8 per cent.
It is conceivable, of course, that a more satisfactory test of this
general nature could be devised; such, for example, as having the
subject name all the words he can of a given class (four-footed animals,
things to eat, articles of household furniture, trees, birds, etc.). The
main objection to this form of the test is that the performance would in
all probability be more influenced by environment and formal instruction
than is the case with the test of naming sixty words.
One other matter remains to be mentioned; namely, the relative number of
words named in the half-minute periods. As would be expected, the rate
of naming words decreases as the test proceeds. In the case of the
10-year-olds, we find the average number of words for the six successive
half-minutes to be as follows:--
18, 121/2, 101/2, 9, 81/2, 7.
Some subjects maintain an almost constant rate throughout the test,
others rapidly exhaust themselves, while a very few make a bad beginning
and improve as they go. As a rule it is only the very intelligent who
improve after the first half-minute. On the other hand, mentally
retarded subjects and very young normals exhaust themselves so quickly
that only a few words are named in the last minute.
Binet first located this test in year XI, but shifted it to year XII in
1911. Goddard and Kuhlmann retain it in year XI, though Goddard's
statistics suggest year X as the proper location, and Kuhlmann's even
suggest year IX. Kuhlmann, however, accepts fifty words as satisfactory
in case the response contains a considerable proportion of abstract or
unusual words. All the American statistics except Rowe's agree in
showing that the test is easy enough for year X.