Superior Adult 4: Repeating Thought Of Passage

PROCEDURE. Say: "_I am going to read a little selection of about six or

eight lines. When I am through I will ask you to repeat as much of it as

you can. It doesn't make any difference whether you remember the exact

words or not, but you must listen carefully so that you can tell me

everything it says._" Then read the following selections, pausing after

each for the subject's report, which should be recorded _verbatim_:--


(a) "_Tests such as we are now making are of value both for the

advancement of science and for the information of the person

who is tested. It is important for science to learn how people

differ and on what factors these differences depend. If we can

separate the influence of heredity from the influence of

environment, we may be able to apply our knowledge so as to

guide human development. We may thus in some cases correct

defects and develop abilities which we might otherwise


(b) "_Many opinions have been given on the value of life. Some

call it good, others call it bad. It would be nearer correct

to say that it is mediocre; for on the one hand, our

happiness is never as great as we should like, and on the

other hand, our misfortunes are never as great as our enemies

would wish for us. It is this mediocrity of life which

prevents it from being radically unjust._"

Sometimes the subject hesitates to begin, thinking, in spite of our

wording of the instructions, that a perfect reproduction is expected.

Others fall into the opposite misunderstanding and think that they are

prohibited from using the words of the text and must give the thought

entirely in their own language. In cases of hesitation we should urge

the subject a little and remind him that he is to express the thought of

the selection in whatever way he prefers; that the main thing is to tell

what the selection says.

SCORING. The test is passed if the subject is able to repeat in

reasonably consecutive order the main thoughts of at least one of the

selections. Neither elegance of expression nor _verbatim_ repetition is

expected. We merely want to know whether the leading thoughts in the

selection have been grasped and remembered.

All grades of accuracy are found, both in the comprehension of the

selection and in the recall, and it is not always easy to draw the line

between satisfactory and unsatisfactory responses. The following sample

performances will serve as a guide:--

_Selection (a)_

_Satisfactory._ "The tests which we are making are given for the

advancement of science and for the information of the person

tested. By scientific means we will be able to separate

characteristics derived from heredity and environment and to

treat each class separately. By doing so we can more accurately

correct defects."

"Tests like these are for two purposes. First to develop a

science, and second to apply it to the person to help him. The

tests are to find out how you differ from another and to measure

the difference between your heredity and environment."

"These tests are given to see if we can separate heredity and

environment and to see if we can find out how one person differs

from another. We can then correct these differences and teach

people more effectively."

"The tests that we are now making are valuable along both

scientific and personal lines. By using them it can be found out

where a person is weak and where he is strong. We can then

strengthen his weak points and remedy some things that would

otherwise be neglected. They are of great benefit to science and

to the person concerned."

"Tests such as we are now making are of great importance because

they aim to show in what respects we differ from others and why,

and if they do this they will be able to guide us into the right

channel and bring success instead of failure."

_Unsatisfactory._ "Tests such as we are now making are of value

both for the advancement of science and for the information of

the person interested. It is necessary to know this."

"Such tests as we are now making show about the human mind and

show in what channels we are fitted. It is the testing of each

individual between his effects of inheritancy and environment."

"It is very interesting for us to study science for two reasons;

first, to test our mental ability, and second for the further

development of science."

"Tests such as we are now making help in two ways; it helps the

scientists and it gives information to the people."

"Tests are being given to pupils to-day to better them and to

aid science for generations to come. If each person knows

exactly his own beliefs and ideas and faults he can find out

exactly what kind of work he is fitted for by heredity. The

tests show that environment doesn't count, for if you are all

right you will get along anyway." (Note invention.)

_Selection (b)_

_Satisfactory._ "There are different opinions about life. Some

call it good and some bad. It would be more correct to say that

it is middling, because we are never as happy as we would like

to be and we are never as sad as our enemies want us to be."

"One hears many judgments about life. Some say it is good, while

others say it is bad. But it is really neither of the extremes.

Life is mediocre. We do not have as much good as we desire, nor

do we have as much misfortune as others want us to have.

Nevertheless, we have enough good to keep life from being


"Some people have different views of life from others. Some say

it is bad, others say it is good. It is better to class life as

mediocre, as it is never as good as we wish it, and on the other

hand, it might be worse."

"Some people think differently of life. Some think it good, some

bad, others mediocre, which is nearest correct. It brings

unhappiness to us, but not as much as our enemies want us to


_Unsatisfactory._ "Some say life is good, some say it is

mediocre. Even though some say it is mediocre they say it is


"There are two sides of life. Some say it is good while others

say it is bad. To some, life is happy and they get all they can

out of life. For others life is not happy and therefore they

fail to get all there is in life."

"One hears many different judgments of life. Some call it good,

some call it bad. It brings unhappiness and it does not have

enough pleasure. It should be better distributed."

"There are different opinions of the value of life. Some say it

is good and some say it is bad. Some say it is mediocrity. Some

think it brings happiness while others do not."

"Nowadays there is much said about the value of life. Some say

it is good, while others say it is bad. A person should not have

an ill feeling toward the value of life, and he should not be

unjust to any one. Honesty is the best policy. People who are

unjust are more likely to be injured by their enemies." (Note


REMARKS. Contrary to what the subject is led to expect, the test is less

a test of memory than of ability to comprehend the drift of an abstract

passage. A subject who fully grasps the meaning of the selection as it

is read is not likely to fail because of poor memory. Mere verbal memory

improves but little after the age of 14 or 15 years, as is shown by the

fact that our adults do little better than eighth-grade children in

repeating sentences of twenty-eight syllables. On the other hand, adult

intelligence is vastly superior in the comprehension and retention of a

logically presented group of abstract ideas.

There is nothing in which stupid persons cut a poorer figure than in

grappling with the abstract. Their thinking clings tenaciously to the

concrete; their concepts are vague or inaccurate; the interrelations

among their concepts are scanty in the extreme; and such poor mental

stores as they have are little available for ready use.

A few critics have objected to the use of tests demanding abstract

thinking, on the ground that abstract thought is a very special aspect

of intelligence and that facility in it depends almost entirely on

occupational habits and the accidents of education. Some have even gone

so far as to say that we are not justified, on the basis of any number

of such tests, in pronouncing a subject backward or defective. It is

supposed that a subject who has no capacity in the use of abstract ideas

may nevertheless have excellent intelligence "along other lines." In

such cases, it is said, we should not penalize the subject for his

failures in handling abstractions, but substitute, instead, tests

requiring motor cooerdination and the manipulation of things, tests in

which the supposedly dull child often succeeds fairly well.

From the psychological point of view, such a proposal is naively

unpsychological. It is in the very essence of the higher thought

processes to be conceptual and abstract. What the above proposal amounts

to is, that if the subject is not capable of the more complex and

strictly human type of thinking, we should ignore this fact and estimate

his intelligence entirely on the ability he displays to carry on mental

operations of a more simple and primitive kind. This would be like

asking the physician to ignore the diseased parts of his patient's body

and to base his diagnosis on an examination of the organs which are


The present test throws light in an interesting way on the integrity of

the critical faculty. Some subjects are unwilling to extend the report

in the least beyond what they know to be approximately correct, while

others with defective powers of auto-criticism manufacture a report

which draws heavily on the imagination, perhaps continuing in garrulous

fashion as long as they can think of anything having the remotest

connection with any thought in the selection. We have included, for each

selection, one illustration of this type in the sample failures given


The worst fault of the test is its susceptibility to the influence of

schooling. Our uneducated adults of even "superior adult" intelligence

often fail, while about two thirds of high-school pupils succeed. The

unschooled adults have a marked tendency either to give a summary which

is inadequate because of its extreme brevity, or else to give a

criticism of the thought which the passage contains.

This test first appeared in Binet's 1911 revision, in the adult group.

Binet used only selection (b), and in a slightly more difficult form

than we have given above. Goddard gives the test like Binet and retains

it in the adult group. Kuhlmann locates it in year XV, using only

selection (a). On the basis of over 300 tests of adults we find the

test too difficult for the "average adult" level, even on the basis of

only one success in two trials and when scored on the rather liberal

standard above set forth.