Problem Questions

PROCEDURE. Say to the subject: "_Listen, and see if you can understand

what I read._" Then read the following three problems, rather slowly and

with expression, pausing after each long enough for the subject to find

an answer:--

(a) "_A man who was walking in the woods near a city stopped

suddenly, very much frightened, and then ran to the nearest

policeman, saying that he had just seen hang
ng from the limb

of a tree a ... a what?_"

(b) "_My neighbor has been having queer visitors. First a doctor

came to his house, then a lawyer, then a minister (preacher or

priest). What do you think happened there?_"

(c) "_An Indian who had come to town for the first time in his

life saw a white man riding along the street. As the white man

rode by, the Indian said--'The white man is lazy; he walks

sitting down.' What was the white man riding on that caused

the Indian to say, 'He walks sitting down'?_"

Do not ask questions calculated to draw out the correct response, but

wait in silence for the subject's spontaneous answer. It is permissible,

however, to re-read the passage if the subject requests it.

SCORING. _Two responses out of three must be satisfactory._ The

following explanations and examples will make clear the requirements of

the test:--

(a) _What the man saw hanging_

_Satisfactory._ The only correct answer for the first is "A man

who had hung himself" (or who had committed suicide, been

hanged, etc.). We may also pass the following answer: "Dead

branches that looked like a man hanging."

A good many subjects answer simply, "A man." This answer cannot

be scored because of the impossibility of knowing what is in the

subject's mind, and in such cases it is always necessary to say:

"_Explain what you mean._" The answer to this interrogation

always enables us to score the response.

_Unsatisfactory._ There is an endless variety of failures: "A

snake," "A monkey," "A robber," or "A tramp" being the most

common. Others include such answers as "A bear," "A tiger," "A

wild cat," "A cat," "A bird," "An eagle," "A bird's nest," "A

hornet's nest," "A leaf," "A swing," "A boy in a swing," "A

basket of flowers," "An egg," "A ghost," "A white sheet,"

"Clothes," "A purse," etc.

(b) _My neighbor_

_Satisfactory._ The expected answer is "A death," "Some one has

died," etc. We must always check up this response, however, by

asking what the lawyer came for, and this must also be answered


While it is expected that the subject will understand that the

doctor came to attend a sick person, the lawyer to make his

will, and the minister to preach the funeral, there are a few

other ingenious interpretations which pass as satisfactory. For

example, "A man got hurt in an accident; the doctor came to make

him well, the lawyer to see about damages, and then he died and

the preacher came for the funeral." Or, "A man died, the lawyer

came to help the widow settle the estate and the preacher came

for the funeral." We can hardly expect the 14-year-old child to

know that it is not the custom to settle an estate until after

the funeral.

The following excellent response was given by an enlightened

young eugenist: "A marriage; the doctor came to examine them and

see if they were fit to marry, the lawyer to arrange the

marriage settlement, and the minister to marry them." The

following logical responses occurred once each: "A murder. The

doctor came to examine the body, the lawyer to get evidence, and

the preacher to preach the funeral." "An unmarried girl has

given birth to a child. The lawyer was employed to get the man

to marry her and then the preacher came to perform the wedding

ceremony." Perhaps some will consider this interpretation too

far-fetched to pass. But it is perfectly logical and,

unfortunately, represents an occurrence which is not so very


If an incorrect answer is first given and then corrected, the

correction is accepted.

_Unsatisfactory._ The failures again are quite varied, but are

most frequently due to failure to understand the lawyer's

mission. Of 66 tabulated failures, 26 are accounted for in this

way, while only 6 are due to inability to state the part played

by the minister. The most common incorrect responses are: "A

baby born" (accounting for 5 out of 66 failures); "A divorce"

(very common with the children tested by Dr. Ordahl, at Reno,

Nevada!); "A marriage"; "A divorce and a remarriage"; "A

dinner"; "An entertainment"; "Some friends came to chat," etc.

In 20 failures out of 66, marriage was incorrectly connected

with a will, a divorce, the death of a child, etc.

The following are not bad, but hardly deserve to pass: "Sickness

and trouble; the lawyer and minister came to help him out of

trouble." Or, "Somebody was sick; the lawyer wanted his money

and the minister came to see how he was." A few present a still

more logical interpretation, but so far-fetched that it is

doubtful whether they should count as passes; for example: "A

man and his wife had a fight. One got hurt and had to have the

doctor, then they had a lawyer to get them divorced, then the

minister came to marry one of them." Again, "Some one is dying

and is getting married and making his will before he dies."

(c) _What the man was riding on_

The only correct response is "Bicycle." The most common error is

_horse_ (or _donkey_), accounting for 48 out of 71 tabulated

failures. Vehicles, like _wagon_, _buggy_, _automobile_, or

_street car_, were mentioned in 14 out of 71 failures. Bizarre

replies are: "A cripple in a wheel chair"; "A person riding on

some one's back," etc.

REMARKS. The experiment is a form of the completion test. Elements of a

situation are given, out of which the entire situation is to be

constructed. This phase of intelligence has already been discussed.

While it is generally admitted that the underlying idea of this test is

good, some have criticized Binet's selection of problems. Meumann thinks

the lawyer element of the second is so unfamiliar to children as to

render that part of the test unfair. Several "armchair" critics have

mentioned the danger of nervous shock from the first problem. Bobertag

throws out the test entirely and substitutes a completion test modeled

after that of Ebbinghaus. Our own results are altogether favorable to

the test. If it is used in year XIV, Meumann's objection hardly holds,

for American children of that age do ordinarily know something about

making wills. As for the danger of shock from the first problem, we have

never once found the slightest evidence of this much-feared result. The

subject always understands that the situation depicted is hypothetical,

and so answers either in a matter-of-fact manner or with a laugh.

The bicycle problem is our own invention. Binet used the other two and

required both to be answered correctly. The test was located in year XII

of the 1908 scale, and in year XV of the 1911 revision. Goddard and

Kuhlmann retain it in the original location. The Stanford results of

1911, 1912, 1914, and 1915 agree in showing the test too difficult for

year XII, even when only two out of three correct responses are

required. If the original form of the experiment is used, it is

exceedingly difficult for year XV. As here given it fits well at

year XIV.