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

word groups.

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.