Reading For Eight Memories

MATERIAL. We use Binet's selection, slightly adapted, as follows:--

_New York, September 5th. A fire last night burned three houses

near the center of the city. It took some time to put it out.

The loss was fifty thousand dollars, and seventeen families lost

their homes. In saving a girl, who was asleep in a bed, a

fireman was burned on the hands._

The copy of the selecti
n used by the subject should be printed in heavy

type and should not contain the bars dividing it into memories. The

Stanford record booklet contains the selection in two forms, one

suitable for use in scoring, the other in heavy type to be read by the


PROCEDURE. Hand the selection to the subject, who should be seated

comfortably in a good light, and say: "_I want you to read this for me

as nicely as you can._" The subject must read aloud.

Pronounce all the words which the subject is unable to make out, not

allowing more than five seconds' hesitation in such a case.

Record all errors made in reading the selection, and the exact time. By

"error" is meant the omission, substitution, transposition, or

mispronunciation of one word.

The subject is not warned in advance that he will be asked to report

what he has read, but as soon as he has finished reading, put the

selection out of sight and say: "_Very well done. Now, I want you to

tell me what you read. Begin at the first and tell everything you can

remember._" After the subject has repeated everything he can recall and

has stopped, say: "_And what else? Can you remember any more of it?_"

Give no other aid of any kind. It is of course not permissible, when the

child stops, to prompt him with such questions as, "_And what next?

Where were the houses burned? What happened to the fireman?_" etc. The

report must be spontaneous.

Now and then, though not often, a subject hesitates or even refuses to

try, saying he is unable to do it. Perhaps he has misunderstood the

request and thinks he is expected to repeat the selection word for word,

as in the tests of memory for sentences. We urge a little and repeat:

"_Tell me in your own words all you can remember of it._" Others

misunderstand in a different way, and thinking they are expected to tell

merely what the story is about, they say: "It was about some houses that

burned." In such cases we repeat the instructions with special emphasis

on the words _all you can remember_.

SCORING. The test is passed _if the selection is read in thirty-five

seconds with not more than two errors, and if the report contains at

least eight "memories."_ By underscoring the memories correctly

reproduced, and by interlineations to show serious departures from the

text, the record can be made complete with a minimum of trouble.

The main difficulty in scoring is to decide whether a memory has been

reproduced correctly enough to be counted. Absolutely literal

reproduction is not expected. The rule is to count all memories whose

thought is reproduced with only minor changes in the wording. "It took

quite a while" instead of "it took some time" is satisfactory; likewise,

"got burnt" for "was burned"; "who was sleeping" for "who was asleep";

"are homeless" for "lost their homes"; "in the middle" for "near the

center"; "a big fire" for "a fire," etc.

Memories as badly mutilated as the following, however, are not counted:

"A lot of buildings" for "three houses;" "a man" for "a fireman"; "who

was sick" for "who was asleep"; etc. Occasionally we may give half

credit, as in the case of "was seventeen thousand dollars" for "was

fifty thousand dollars"; "and fifteen families" for "and seventeen

families," etc.

REMARKS. Are we warranted in using at all as a measure of intelligence a

test which depends as much on instruction as this one does? Many are

inclined to answer this question in the negative. The test has been

omitted from the revisions of Goddard, Kuhlmann, and Binet himself. As

regards Binet's earlier test of reading for two memories, in year VIII,

there could hardly be any difference of opinion. The ability to read at

that age depends so much on the accident of environment that the test is

meaningless unless we know all about the conditions which have

surrounded the child.

The use of the test in year X, however, is a very different matter.

There are comparatively few children of that age who will fail to pass

it for lack of the requisite school instruction. Children of 10 years

who have attended school with reasonable regularity for three years are

practically always able to read the selection in thirty-five seconds and

without over two mistakes unless they are retarded almost to the

border-line of mental deficiency. Of our 10-year-olds who failed to meet

the test, only a fourth did so because of inability to meet the reading

requirements as regards time or mistakes. The remaining failures were

caused by inadequate report, and most of these subjects were of the

distinctly retarded group.

We may conclude, therefore, that given anything approaching normal

educational advantages, the test is really a measure of intelligence.

Used with due caution, it is perhaps as valuable as any other test in

the scale. It is only necessary, in case of failure, to ascertain the

facts regarding the child's educational opportunities. Even this

precaution is superfluous in case the subject tests as low as 8 years by

the remainder of the scale. A safe rule is to omit the test from the

calculation of mental age if the subject has not attended school the

equivalent of two or three years.

It has been contended by some that tests in which success depends upon

language mastery cannot be real tests of intelligence. By such critics

language tests have been set over against intelligence tests as

contrasting opposites. It is easy to show, however, that this view is

superficial and psychologically unsound. Every one who has an

acquaintance with the facts of mental growth knows that language mastery

of some degree is the _sine qua non_ of conceptual thinking. Language

growth, in fact, mirrors the entire mental development. There are few

more reliable indications of a subject's stage of intellectual maturity

than his mastery of language.

The rate of reading, for example, is a measure of the rate of

association. Letters become associated together in certain combinations

making words, words into word groups and sentences. Recognition is for

the most part an associative process. Rapid and accurate association

will mean ready recognition of the printed form. Since language units

(whether letters, words, or word groups) have more or less preferred

associations according to their habitual arrangement into larger units,

it comes about that in the normal mind under normal conditions these

preferred sequences arouse the apperceptive complex necessary to make a

running recognition rapid and easy. It is reasonable to suppose that in

the subnormal mind the habitual common associations are less firmly

fixed, thus diminishing the effectiveness of the ever-changing

apperceptive expectancy. Reading is, therefore, largely dependent on

what James calls the "fringe of consciousness" and the "consciousness of

meaning." In reading connected matter, every unit is big with a mass of

tendencies. The smaller and more isolated the unit, the greater is the

number of possibilities. Every added unit acts as a modifier limiting

the number of tendencies, until we have finally, in case of a large

mental unit, a fairly manageable whole. When the most logical and

suitable of these associations arise easily from subconsciousness to

consciousness, recognition is made easy, and their doing so will depend

on whether the habitual relations of the elements have left permanent

traces in the mind.

The reading of the subnormal subject bears a close analogy to the

reading of nonsense matter by the normal person. It has been ascertained

by experiment that such reading requires about twice as much time as the

reading of connected matter. This is true for the reason that out of

thousands of associations possible with each word, no particular

association is favored. The apperceptive expectancy, practically _nil_

in the reading of nonsense material, must be decidedly deficient in all

poor reading.

Furthermore, in the case of the ordinary reader there is a feeling of

rightness or wrongness about the thought sequences. That less

intelligent subjects have this sense of fitness to a much less degree is

evidenced by their passing over words so mutilated in pronunciation as

to deprive them of all meaning. The transposition of letters and words,

and the failure to observe marks of punctuation, point to the same

thing. In other words, all the reading of the stupid subject is with

material which to him is more or less nonsensical.

A little observation will convince one that mentally retarded subjects,

even when they possess a reasonable degree of fluency in recognizing

printed words, do not sense shades of meaning. Their reading is by small

units. Words and phrases do not fuse into one mental content, but remain

relatively unconnected. The expression is monotonous and the voice has

more of the unnatural "schoolroom" pitch. They read more slowly, more

often misplace the emphasis, and miscall more words. In short, one who

has psychological insight and is acquainted with reading standards can

easily detect the symptoms of intellectual inferiority by hearing a dull

subject read a brief selection.

The giving of memories is also significant. Feeble-minded adults who

have been well schooled are sometimes able to read the words of the text

fairly fluently, but are usually unable to give more than a scanty

report of what has been read. The scope of attention has been exhausted

in the mere recognition and pronouncing of words. In general, the

greater the mechanical difficulties which a subject encounters, the less

adequate is his report of memories.

The test has, however, one real fault. School children have a certain

advantage in it over older persons _of the same mental age_ whose school

experience is less recent. Adult subjects tend to give their report in

less literal form. It is necessary, therefore, to give credit for the

reproduction of the ideas of the passage rather than for strictly

literal "memories."

The selection we have used is, with minor changes, the same as Binet's.

His selection was divided into nineteen memories. The one here given has

twenty-one memories. Binet used the test both in year VIII and year IX,

requiring two memories at year VIII and six memories at year IX. When we

require eight memories, as we have done, the test becomes difficult

enough for non-selected school children of 10 years. Location in year X

seems preferable, because it insures that the child will almost

certainly have had the schooling requisite for learning to read a

selection of this difficulty, even if he has started to school at a

later age than is customary. Naturally, placing the test higher in the

scale makes it more a test of report and less a test of ability to

recognize and pronounce printed words.